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A Walk Through the Woods

Caddo Lake State Park’s Caddo Forest Trail   

Distance: 7 miles • Difficulty Level: 2/5 • Approximate Time:  1 hour

For thousands of years, the Caddo people lived and hunted in the Caddo Lake region. They set up far-reaching trade networks with Spanish and French explorers, who fought for control of the area until American settlement came through, leading to the forced removal of the Caddo in the mid-19th century.

Named after these people, the lake has origins that trace back to a giant logjam, known as the Great Raft, along the Red River. For centuries, spring flooding washed over riverbanks and toppled trees into the logjam, piling up for more than 80 miles. With the river flow disrupted, water rerouted to create numerous lakes, and eventually Caddo Lake formed around 1800. Now, the lake level is maintained by a dam in Louisiana, but it is still considered the largest naturally formed lake in Texas. Caddo Lake State Park, which opened in 1934, rests on the banks of the Big Cypress Bayou in the maze of cypress swamp that makes up the Caddo Lake watershed.

The park’s Caddo Forest Trail allows visitors to experience the region’s historical and natural world. The short interpretive hike contains two loops, starting with views of a creek that drains into the bayou. It then circles along a transition zone from the striking bald cypress trees of the bottomland forest to the oak and loblolly pines of the upland forest. The trail’s lower loop is fairly level and easy to hike, but the larger loop is steep in places with two sections of steps.

“It’s really nice because you can walk that whole loop and you can see that transition zone very clearly,” says Park Superintendent Brenda Cooper. “Our park is so pretty. It’s just majestic.”

As part of the park’s Centennial project, the interpretive signs along Caddo Forest Trail are being upgraded to include Braille for visitors who are visually impaired.

About halfway along the trail sits a CCC-built pavilion, the perfect spot to stop for a picnic.

“A lot of people stop there to take photos and rest, and when we have interpretive hikes, we’ll stop there to talk about the CCC and the history of the park,” Cooper says.

Just past the pavilion, hikers come up to a fork in the path. Those wanting a longer excursion can take Pine Ridge Spur over to the hilly side of the park before looping back to the Caddo Forest Trail. After ample time exploring, Cooper recommends taking the CCC Cut-Through past the park’s amphitheater to finish the hike at the fishing pier on Saw Mill Pond. 

 Kristen Tibbetts;  Maegan Lanham | TPWD

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