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East Texas swamp beauty.  No, really!

I’ve always thought of east Texas as a humid, mosquito-infested, muddy swamp full of frogs.  I’ve never been a fan of frogs, with the exception of Kermit (of course).  I live in constant fear that they will jump on me and that their slimy skin will touch mine.  It’s irrational, I know, but I was willing to set aside my fear, think of Kermit and travel to Caddo Lake in east Texas.

I arrived at Caddo Lake State Park late in the afternoon on a Tuesday and had the place to myself.

The park has several options for accommodations.  I rented a two-person cabin that was very comfortable and clean, perfect if you’re not a big camper or you plan to spend time in a Texas state park in August, or if you live in constant fear of frogs.

After unloading the car, I took a drive around the park with my camera to see what there was to see.  This was my first view of the lake.  What a beauty!

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The sun was getting low and I was getting hungry, but I stuck around for a while, soaking in the swamp.  The photos above were actually Saw Mill Pond, which branches off of Caddo Lake, and they were taken from a boardwalk on the north west side of the park.

I walked even more north to the boat ramp to watch the sunset.  The boat ramp is a good place to start your boat trip, fish or just sit still and enjoy the lake.

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Those stunning cypress trees at Saw Mill Pond stayed on my mind as I drove back to my cabin for dinner.

Each two-person cabin has a microwave, sink and small dining table inside, along with an outdoor grill and picnic table.  I thought back to my college days and made myself a decent dinner with microwave recipes and ate outside with an armadillo I named Armando.  No frogs in sight.

After dinner, I picked up my camera gear to see what I could do about capturing those gorgeous cypress tress.

I went back to the boardwalk at Saw Mill Pond around 9 p.m., which was dark enough to do some night photography and light painting.  (Click here to read more about these photos.)

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It was a lovely, still night, and I was the only human among frogs (I know they were out there somewhere), cicadas and other swamp creatures.

The next morning I got up around 8 a.m. and made a trip to the park office.  The rangers recommended a place to rent a canoe – Johnson’s Ranch – a few miles up the road in Uncertain, TX.  Before I went there, though, I spent the morning on the park trails.

I hiked the 0.6 mile Caddo Forest Trail near the boat ramp on the north side of the park, then wandered down some of the shorter Steep Rugged Footpaths.  (Make sure to pick up a nature trail guide at the park office before you go.)

The forest trail was an easy hike, perfect for children or a quick walk through the woods.  It also features a Civilian Conservation Corps Pavilion that was built in 1934.


The Steep Rugged Footpaths are just that.  Steep and rugged.  Most people could easily walk through, but the trails are rocky and less clear, so be cautious if you’re not sure footed.

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After my hike, I packed up my stuff and checked out of my cabin.  (Check out is 11 a.m.)  Then I made my way over to Johnson’s Ranch.  What a great place!  Family owned and friendly.  They have a marina with a little store for snacks and supplies, and they offer tours, fishing and boat rental.

Still leery of frogs, I rented a canoe and paddled out on a paddling trail.  I’ll admit, I didn’t research the paddling trails before hand, so I hit a few snags.

I learned later that I was on the Turtle Shell Paddling Trail, which was beautiful.  I also learned that summer is not the best time to paddle in that area.  There was a drought, making water levels low and the hydrilla, moss and other water plants very very thick.  The trail started out easy, but the vegetation just got too thick for me to paddle through.

If you’re planning a paddling trip, I suggest that you go to Caddo Lake in the spring or fall.

The trail was still breathtaking!  It was a whole different world than where I came from in central Texas.  A land made for Kermit.

I paddled for a few hours and returned the canoe back to Johnson’s Ranch.  The owner, Billy Carter, met me at the bank and said, “make sure you go inside and get yourself a key chain!”  When I went inside, he was surprised to see that they had run out.  “Okay here’s what you do,” he said.  “Go get in your car and turn on the AC full blast (it was hot out) and then follow me to my house.  I live a mile away, I’ll get you a key chain!”

I’m not in the habit of following strange men home on a whim, but like I said, this was a family place and I didn’t feel threatened.  I waited outside while he ran in to the house and got me a key chain, then I was on my way.  How often do you get something that says Uncertain, TX on it?

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I returned home about six hours later, looking like the swamp thing.  I never did see a frog.

Caddo Lake was definitely worth the trip!

Ironically enough, Texas Highways featured Caddo Lake in this month’s magazine.  Click here to read their article.

Here are some helpful links to help plan your trip:

Caddo Lake State Park  (includes info on cabins and a park map)
Johnson’s Ranch  (boat rental, fishing, tours and cabins)
Texas Parks and Wildlife Inland Paddle Trail Guide  (info on five Caddo Lake trails)
Landis Images photo blog (info on night photography and light painting)

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