Caddo Lake is a maze of bayous and sloughs, and is the only natural lake in Texas. It is the largest natural lake in the south, encompassing approximately 33,000 acres of water. The lake is fed by Big Cypress Bayou and begins in Karnack, Texas at its western edge. It twists and turns through the piney woods of East Texas where it becomes a deep river with shallow backwater areas. It then opens up into a wider expanse of water, called “Big Lake”. In 1914, an earthen spillway was erected, which marks the eastern edge of Caddo Lake in Mooringsport, Louisiana.
Caddo Lake empties into Twelve Mile Bayou, the Atchafalaya River, the Mississippi River, and the Gulf of Mexico. Caddo Lake was designated as a Ramsar Wetland of international importance in 1993 by the Ramsar Convention – an intergovernmental treaty that provides for international cooperation for the conservation of wetland habitats. Caddo Lake is home to one of the largest cypress forests in the world, and the moss-draped cypress groves and lush vegetation make it appear something akin to a Louisiana swamp.
American Bald Eagle
Picture taken near Whangdoodle Pass on Caddo Lake by Lee Coltharp.
Caddo was first seen by Native Americans in the 8th century, but substantial development would only begin with invention of the steamboat and US annexation of both Louisiana and Texas in the 19th century. The cities of Port Caddo, Swanson's Landing, and Jefferson in Texas and Mooringsport in Louisiana, had thriving riverboat ports on the lake. Gradually as the log jams where removed in the lake and the Red River by Captain Henry Miller Shreve and then by the Army Corps of Engineers, the lake changed shape and eventually fell over ten feet destroying the East Texas ports and their riverboat industry.