Caddo Lake

Every spring, when the wildflowers begin to bloom and the days are filled with warm sunshine, Cody and I take a road trip. We dust off the canoe, gather our gear, and head to an unfamiliar destination. This year, the mysterious town of Uncertain, Texas on Caddo Lake captured our adventure seeking hearts. Near the end of January, we reserved the last available cabin for a long weekend in March. We wanted a waterfront property but, booked the cabin across the road for the only days available. The day before our arrival, the owner of the cabin called to verify our travel plans. "Yes," I declared, "and we look forward to exploring the lake." The lady paused and with hesitation in her voice said, "Oh. Ok, we'll see you soon." The next morning on a sunny spring Saturday, we headed north into the East Texas Piney woods. The previous week brought abundant rains and the rivers were at full capacity. The further north we journeyed, the sky filled with clouds becoming a dark grey. Then the rains fell and the Earth became a luscious green landscape.

East Texas Piney Woods, the next most rainy ecosystem after the rainforests. True story. The East Texas Piney Woods is a pine forest mixed with oaks, elms, sweetgums, and flowering dogwoods, redbuds, and magnolia trees. This ecoregion is considered critically endangered due to logging and lumber, thus, there are 4 designated National Forest areas covering over 630,000 acres in 12 Texas counties.

Upon arrival, the lake level was at flood stage. Many people were evacuated from their homes or without power. Torrential rains flooded the area days before and moved south and east causing the river and bayous to crest below Caddo Lake. The water level was continuing to rise. All the reservations for the lakefront properties were cancelled. When we arrived, an exhausted community who had been helping their family, friends, and neighbors cope with a historic flood greeted us. Caddo Lake was 11 feet above normal and the water was slowly creeping higher. When we asked where to launch the canoe, the locals looked around resigned to the situation, shrugged their shoulders and said, “Anywhere.” We launched the canoe from the driveway across the road and paddled past flooded houses and boat docks to reach the lake. The water level was in the canopy of the cypress trees. The rain clouds were visible to the east. It was late in the day. The rising water was tranquil. On our way back the sunset was surreal.

Launching from the front yard down the driveway into a backyard. Launching from the front yard down the driveway into a backyard.

Caddo Lake Sunset in the Trees The sun beginning to set.

Caddo Lake is the only natural lake in Texas and even that is debatable. The area is a network of bayous, rivers, smaller oxbow lakes, and the lower parts, a swamp. Sometime in the past few hundred years, a mighty logjam prevented water flow and a larger lake formed. In the 1900's, a damn was engineered and the lake permanent. Part of the waterway resides in Louisiana, but the magnificent moss-covered cypress forest is in Texas. There is a dream-like quality floating among the trees. A true peace permeates the atmosphere, as stillness silently ripples in the mirrored reflections. Even when a flood of epic proportions is happening, the water quietly rises almost unnoticed.

Even the snakes were caught by the flood waters. Even the snakes were caught by the flood waters.

Monday morning after 2 days of canoeing on the lake, the water was still rising. On Tuesday, according to the NOAA data, the lake crested at 179.95 ft. MSL (Mean Sea Level), the 4th highest in record keeping history. At 168.5 ft. the lake is at full capacity. The Caddo Lake community gathered together in support of one another, then celebrated when there was nothing left to do but wait. The people were gracious in hosting us during such an epic event and ever so proud of their majestic lake. We were given tours, offered stories, and invited for meals. When it was time to leave, the locals eagerly advised us of the safest route home to avoid the flood waters. Thank you to the wonderful people of Caddo Lake and especially HodgePodge Cottages for the cabin rental.

Cody likes to think we would have made it in The Botanical Journey Expedition Vehicle. The Botanical Journey Expedition Vehicle

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