Trails offer unique view of Caddo Lake

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Michelle Williams

Elbow grease is great fuel.

It’s inexpensive to produce and use, healthful and eco-friendly.

To add to its many attributes, elbow grease will now afford its advocates a unique view of a local treasure.

Ten paddling trails recently opened at Caddo Lake offering kayakers and canoeists access to backwater bayous and sloughs where some of the lake’s most enchanting vistas and intriguing wildlife are found.

The Caddo wetlands are a mature, flooded, bald cypress forest home to cypress trees up to 400 years old. Caddo was designated a "Wetland of International Importance," in 1993.

Caddo is especially important as a waterfowl habitat for migratory bird species within the Central Flyway. The area supports one of the highest breeding populations of wood ducks, prothonotary warblers and other birds in the United States.

As of 2003, Caddo Lake flora and fauna consisted of 189 species of trees and shrubs, 75 grasses, 42 woody vines, 216 kinds of birds, 86 species of fish including 18 species of game fish, 90 species of reptiles and amphibians and 47 species of mammals.

Forty-four of Caddo’s native species are endangered, threatened or rare, according to the Caddo Lake State Park Web site.

Area Biologist for the Caddo Lake Wildlife Management Area, Vanessa Adams, described Caddo as a naturalist’s delight.

"There are gorgeous backwater cypress forests – just beautiful. Along the trails, you can see lotus flowers, lily pads, all kinds of birds. We have some beautiful trails – really nice," she said.

Adams noted trails are formed in loops so that paddlers don’t have to worry with launching one place and exiting another and said all are "very easy" to traverse thanks to "pretty much flat water" and "low flow river conditions."

And, trails are "easy to follow," she said.

Five trails are called the Big Cypress Trails, which trek through Big Cypress Bayou, the lake’s main waterway and point of origin. Each Big Cypress trail launches from Backwater Jack’s RV Park upriver from the State Highway 43 bridge.

The remaining five trails are called Caddo Lake Trails. Launch locations include one each from the state park, the wildlife management area, Shady Glade, Crip’s Camp and Johnson’s Landing.

Trails vary in length from nearly two miles to more than eight.

Launch fees apply.

Visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife Web site at under subhead "Activities" then "Boating, paddling" and go to "Caddo Lake" in the locations box for more information.

Adams invited paddlers and nature lovers of all ages to come and enjoy Caddo’s unique beauty, whether landlubbers or water enthusiasts.

She urged anyone using watercraft on the lake, including canoeists and kayakers, to thoroughly clean their boats before leaving the lake.

"Please. Please. Please, you have got to clean your boats. We have a very bad problem with giant salvinia and it’s only going to get worse. Please, clean your boats and if you use a trailer, don’t use a launch. Salvinia is very easily transferred from one body of water to another," she said.

In addition, paddlers should wear clothing and shoes appropriate for travel on water where temperatures can feel considerably lower than on land.

For more information, call Caddo Lake State Park at 903-679-9817.

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