Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bayou Kayaking at Caddo Lake in Texas

Caddo Lake in Uncertain Texas
If you have ever visited our Kayak Texas page then you know I have long wanted to visit Caddo Lake. Caddo is an old, natural lake that is more like an elaborate river system than a lake. It flows down from the Big Cypress Bayou in a series of interconnected fish laden, tree-lined canals, ditches, ponds and shallow lakes. This lake offers more shade than any other body of water I have ever seen. We just got back from a two night stay on Caddo Lake. We did a little bit of fishing, a whole lot of kayaking and we even shelled out the doe for a guided boat tour. If you enjoy the Cypress trees on the Lower Mountain Fork River in Broken Bow, Oklahoma, visit Caddo Lake soon. This shade-tree paddler was in flatwater heaven.

Guided Boat Tour
Normally, Dianne and I won't consider spending our outdoor time enduring the noise and odor of a motor boat. It is one thing to watch them pass by, but being out the water without hearing the birds holds little charm for me. However, Caddo Lake is vast and varied and our time was short. We decided to take the one-hour lake tour at the last minute. To my shock, Billy Carter's Go-Devil® Tours was the highlight of our trip to Caddo Lake. I wish we had taken it earlier in our trip and I will definitely take the tour again upon our return to Caddo Lake. The river guide was able to show us the oldest most scenic areas in this ancient flooded forest.

Caddo Lake is an ancient flooded forest of Bald Cypress trees. The huge water trees are 'curtained' with thick garlands of Spanish Moss that capture moisture from the early morning air. As the moisture evaporates, it has a cooling effect. The tea-colored waters are teaming with unusually large Catfish, Bass, Sunfish and Crappie. Lily pads abound on the Caddo. Lovely white water lilies and bright yellow Lotus border small tree lines in some places and fill lakes in other area. On Caddo Lake you can paddle your kayak into a 'field' of thousands of water lily blooms. Caddo Lake is paradise for fishermen and photographers.

Caddo Lake Lodge

We spent our two fabulous nights at Caddo Lake Lodge, in the small town of Uncertain Texas. The Wells family was nice enough to offer us a discounted 'press' rate to facilitate of first trip to this paddler's paradise. The lodge offered plenty of room for Dianne and I plus our son Dylan and Dianne's mother. The house has ceiling fans everywhere, cold A/C, a large, deep, soaking tub, spacious deck and other luxuries. The large dining room was great at mealtime. The Caddo Lake Lodge website has pictures of the rooms, but my favorite feature was the private canoe launch and fishing docks. The height of luxury in the perfect location. The dock is located on a narrow section of Caddo Lake called Clinton's Chute. We paddled our kayaks a short ways down to an even more narrow and shady branch called Clinton's Ditch. This part is too narrow and shallow to appeal to the speeding Bass boats.

Photopaddling on Caddo Lake
The mix of land and water on Caddo Lake is unusual. It allows you to slip silently through the forest in your kayak. Paddle quietly and you are sure to sneak right up on a wide assortment of interesting wildlife. Such a wealth of trees is of course ideal for Dianne because she loves to set and run limb lines for Catfish and Bass. For the photopaddler, Caddo Lake offers filtered light on the brightest of days, loads of reflections and a unique blend of light and shadow that is like nothing I have ever seen before. Taking the guided tour earlier in our trip would have improved my photopaddling success as the guide took us to see several more ditches through the bayou. On future trips I hope to launch from a few different boat ramps to see more sections of this amazing lake.

I expected the swampy bayous of Caddo Lake to be stinky and crawling with snakes. I surprised to find neither was the case. I only saw one snake the entire time I was in the area and it was being carried away by a hawk at the time! The smell of Caddo Lake was lovely during the hot, muggy season we visited. I have never spent so much time on the water and still avoided sunburn. Dianne and I both bought short-term fishing licenses, but as usual Dianne did all of the fishing, I was too busy exploring the boat lanes, duck blinds and 'bayou architecture'. It is like the Lower Mountain Fork River, but with much larger Cypress and much flatter water.

Kayak Fishing in the Bayou

Neither Dianne nor I have ever found a spot that was so ideal for limb lining. The large amount of cover on Caddo Lake allows the fish the time to grow enormous and there is always a handy limb to set a hook. The trees are often surrounded by very deep water, which is excellent for fishing or very shallow water which is excellent for catching bait. Catching limb line bait just takes a Minnow Trap, Seine or a few minutes with the casting net. You can also buy bait at a number of places like: Jonhson's Ranch, Crip's Camp and other fine local establishments. Dianne had no trouble catching a whopper Bass at Caddo Lake, but it takes a mighty big one to get the record...over 16 lbs the last I heard!

Uncertain, Texas is a very economical travel destination for any Oklahoma paddler who is eager to explore water trails that have more in common with a rain forest than with the Great Plains. Check out Caddo Lake photoset on Flickr to see more of our pictures from this great road trip.

I can't wait to go back!


Barbie said...

We passed Lake Eufaula last weekend on a trip.
Do you happen to know why the water looks so brown?

Thanks a million

Thomas said...

Thanks for your comment, Barbie!

The three major feeder rivers of Lake Eufaula are the North Canadian River, the South Canadian River and the Deep Fork of the Canadian River (aka the Deep Fork River). All three rivers are fairly muddy, but the Deep Fork is very muddy from the OKC area red clay it carries down our way. The other feeder rivers are more sandy than muddy.

Because of this, Lake Eufaula gets muddier the farther North you go, I-40 crosses a section on the North side of the lake.

If you visit the parts of Lake Eufaula that are farther south, Eufaula gets a bit less muddy. We went kayaking at a spot on Southern Eufaula lake called Hickory Point near McAlester, Oklahoma and it looked like a whole new lake to me!