Caddo Lake State Park is a gorgeous park in the piney woods ecoregion of eastern Texas with amazing views and scenery to take in – unlike any other place you have been before! It’s the only destination I can think of that can be described as eerie, magical and enchanting all at the same time.
In this blog post, I will give you the low-down on what to expect at the park, share some of my favorite places and experiences, and finish with some key tips for your visit. Before I do so, let me tell you a little bit about myself. My name is Theresa and I was born and raised a Texan, through and through.
My family lived in Austin for a while and then moved to Dallas. So most of my formative years were in Dallas. I previously worked in healthcare on the admin side but went back to school to follow my passion to become a registered nurse. I have always been an open minded person and that translates into the food I love to try, as well as new places to travel.
We all grow and learn so much about ourselves and the world when we stay open minded. I have pushed myself and learned I had new limits on each adventure and I have opened my eyes to the culture that different foods offer. This spurs me to never stop exploring in all aspects of life.
Magical Day Trip at Caddo Lake State Park
I visited Caddo Lake State Park during the pandemic and it was a really spontaneous trip! We were looking for places to do a quick road trip and had recently discovered our passions for visiting national and state parks. The pandemic took a toll on all of us and I wanted a change of scenery to refuel my energy – both from a physical and mental standpoint.
Caddo Lake caught my eye because it was a bayou and the “trails” were all in the water – so you had to take a boat, canoe or kayak to get around. The photos online looked breathtaking and I honestly had never seen anything like it before. So we planned our day trip and headed that way.
We researched how to get rentals and where to access the park ahead of time to make the trip easier. The rentals were first come first served, so we made sure to pack the night before and leave early in the morning. When we arrived at Johnson’s Ranch Marina, we paid for a canoe, vests and paddles and loaded up our cooler with food and water and set off!
A map was provided of all the trails and we chose a few of them to explore as recommended by the staff. We spent approximately four hours on the lake and saw some beautiful scenes that I will cherish forever. Everyone on the lake that day was spread out so we were exploring Caddo mostly to ourselves, giving in to the quietness and calm of nature surrounding us.
Once in a while we would hear birds or the gentle sigh of the wind sweeping through the cypress trees covered with Spanish Moss. The trees were majestic rising above the waters and shading you down below, but from afar they are an army of ghostly titans apprising you from a distance.
Sometimes we would stop paddling and just take everything in. I would soak in the sun’s warmth and try to commit to my memory the view of crystal-clear water mirroring the sky. Our paddles cutting through the water would create ripples that glittered from catching the sun’s rays and in clearer areas, we would see fish take shade under the lily pads.
Why Caddo Lake is such a Special Place
One of the main drawcards of Caddo Lake is experiencing a park that allows you to paddle along its “trails” instead of hiking. There are different views on each trail and all of them are amazing. This park also gives you the chance to enjoy the nature all around you. One trail can take to you a field of lilies while another has you shrouded in the shadow of cypress trees.
There is no queue of photographers trying to get the “best shot”, no selfie sticks and no heavy foot traffic. When you are out here, it’s only you in the water and the trees. There are 50 miles of canoe trails for the adventurous! Any traveler who values reinvigorating their spirit of adventure through nature will appreciate the experience to be had in this spectacular park.
My Best Experience at Caddo Lake State Park
One of my favorite trails at Caddo Lake State Park was one that took us paddling through an incredible tunnel of trees. The tree’s roots twisted and were packed on each side of the tunnel while the branches and leaves atop sifted beams of sunlight down upon us. It was magical to say the least!
The sound of birds and animals were muted as the trees created a natural buffer. In fact, all we could hear was the lap of the water with the paddles and the sweeping sound of the water foliage moving past our canoe.
The water foliage across the surface had grown so thick that it looked like we were paddling through a meadow instead of water. I felt as if I had entered another world, and was even reminded of The Lord of the Rings! This was a gorgeous experience and my top memory of this visit.
Need to Know Before you Go
Plan your trip accordingly, whether it be a day trip or weekend visit. If you are going for the day, bring a cooler as the canoes are large enough to pack lunch, snacks and water. We used these items to have a picnic in our canoe. You can come back ashore to picnic, but I loved the peacefulness of eating on the water. This way you can spend more time on the trails as well.
The rentals at Johnson’s Ranch Marina are first come first serve, but after searching online there are at least four other rental businesses to choose from. The trails are all labeled via signs nailed to posts out on the water. So if you feel like you have paddled too far out, just look for a colored sign.
I recommend getting the map to ensure you have time to paddle there and back without losing track of time or getting lost. There are campsites for those that also want to explore the nature trails around Caddo Lake State Park. In the end, however you choose to experience Caddo Lake, one thing is for sure: you will have a magical and enchanting time!