About Caddo Lake
Caddo Lake has been described as “the most beautiful lake you will ever see.” Few people who have visited Caddo would contradict that statement.
Because there are very few shoreline vantage points from which to view open water, especially on the Texas side, Caddo Lake has also been called “the Invisible Lake.” You have to be on the lake to see it.
Unlike modern man-made reservoirs that shape our perceptions of what a lake should look like, Caddo is a naturally-formed lake of some 28,000 to 32,000 acres, depending on water levels. The lake is almost evenly divided between Texas and Louisiana. It is the only large naturally-formed lake in Texas and the largest in the American South.
The Caddo Police Jury drainage and levee program began in 1875, and by 1895 was so successful that the volume of water flowing into Soda Lake each flood season was insufficient to render it passable and the lake accessible to steamboats. Within a few short years the same thing would happen to the lake. The Jefferson Navigation Company under the leadership of a man named DeWare began pushing in 1905 to dam the lake. Damming was authorized in 1910. When the police jury learned of that, they made in 1910 the lake bed available to oil exploration.
The Caddo Lake wetlands contain one of the best examples of a mature flooded bald cypress forest in the U.S. and includes cypress trees up to 400 years old. The lake also supports one of the most diverse communities of plants in Texas, if not the U.S.
Approximately 216 bird, 47 mammal, and 90 reptile and amphibian species occur in the area, many of which depend on the specialized habitat provided by the wetlands of Caddo Lake. A number of animals and plants here are considered rare, threatened or endangered under national and international laws. These species include, but are not limited to, the peregrine falcon, the alligator snapping turtle, and the eastern big-eared bat.
The wetlands of Caddo Lake are very important to 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 U.S.
Caddo Lake also supports diverse fish fauna, with as many as 86 species. There are at least 18 species of game fish present in Caddo waters, accounting for the lake’s important sports fishery activity.
In 1993, portions of Caddo Lake and its wetlands became the 13th site in the U.S. to be designated “wetlands of international significance” under the Ramsar Convention.
The lake gets its name from the Caddo Indians, whose traditional homelands once included the Red River Valley from southeastern Oklahoma, southwestern Arkansas, northeastern Texas, and northwestern Louisiana.The Caddos were a clever and generally peaceful confederacy whose wetlands skills contributed to their mastery of agriculture and pottery. Earliest accounts of the Caddos reported by Spanish and French explorers describe them as self-sufficient, resourceful, and the most advanced of Native Americans west of the Mississippi.