Featuring natural waterways, fantastic camping amenities, and peaceful wooded surroundings, Caddo Lake State Park is a wonderful RV getaway destination for visitors of all ages. Located off Route 43 near the small town of Karnack, the area in and around Caddo Lake State Park has a long history. Caddo Indians called the area home in the 18th century and in the flickering firelight, people passed down legends about a lake formed when a strong wind slammed into drifting water, and a semi-mythical place called Sha'childi'ni (Timber Hill).
The modern history of the park starts in the 1930s when the Civilian Conservation Corps built it between 1933 and 1937. For $30 a month plus room and board, these workers converted army barracks into what became Caddo Lake State Park. Today, this isolated park near the Texas-Louisiana border is a very popular place to visit for RV lovers of all ages. What really makes this park stand out is the lake. Caddo Lake is a wondrous site with massive bald cypress trees towering out of the water. There are beautiful hiking trails, plenty of paddling opportunities, and many areas for you to throw out a line and try to catch the big one.
The park contains several, well-developed RV campgrounds, including sites that have full hookups or electric-only sites. There are also plenty of alternate accommodation options, including tent-only sites, cabins, and lodges. Caddo Lake State Park is a must-stop for your next RV trip to Texas, so its time to plan your visit and head to the park.
Caddo Lake State Park is about halfway between Shreveport and Texarkana off Route 43 and just outside the tiny East Texas town of Karnack, which was the childhood home of Lady Bird Johnson. Since the park is right off Route 43, you shouldn't have any trouble finding the entrance. Route 43 is a mostly two-lane road that’s a bit narrow and cut through thick East Texas forests. It is also pretty much arrow-straight, almost completely flat, and somewhat isolated, so visibility and traffic are not a problem. So, even if you are not a very experienced RV driver, you should have no problem navigating it. The park only covers a tiny portion of Caddo Lake. Most of this sprawling body of water, which is actually a collection of several smaller lakes, is a little further east, near the town of Uncertain.
Parking is available throughout Caddo Lake State Park. For those looking to join all the aquatic action, there is a large parking lot that accommodates RVs at the boat launch of the Big Cypress Bayou. There are three smaller parking lots near the entrance to the park as well.
Squirrel Haven is the smallest of the four campgrounds within Caddo Lake State Park, so it is the perfect place to stay if you are looking for some peace and quiet. Located within the wooded area of the park, all of the sites at Squirrel Haven are equipped with water and 30-amp electric hookups, and the sites are large enough to accommodate rigs up to 56 feet in length at the ADA-accessible site and 51 feet at a regular one.
Showers and restrooms are within walking distance of Squirrel Haven, and you are only a short walk from Mill Pond if you want to go and check out the water. You should be able to get cell phone reception on all of the major networks but satellite TV may be tricky due to all of the large trees. Pets are also allowed, and reservations are available prior to your arrival.
Armadillo Run is one of the smaller campgrounds within Caddo Lake State Park that is perfect for RV lovers who don't need sewer hookups. All nine of the sites within Armadillo Run are equipped with water and 30-amp electric hookups, and the campground is located in the most wooded area of the park away from the pond. You can expect a very shady camping experience if you choose to stay at Armadillo Run Camping Area. Sites are also very flat with a paved area for you to park your RV. Rigs up to 61 feet in length will be able to access the campground, and pets are allowed at all sites.
Woodpecker Hollow is the place to stay if you want to make the most of the full hookups available within the park. This eight-site campground has been upgraded with new bathroom facilities and an upgraded sewer system, so you can expect a very modern stay.
Along with having full hookups, each site also comes with a fire ring, picnic table, and an outdoor grill. These are also the largest sites available within the campground with enough room for rigs up to 122 feet in length! You are welcome to bring your pet to Woodpecker Hollow, and one site is also ADA-accessible. Since there are only a handful of full hookup sites, it is recommended that you reserve one of these sites prior to your arrival.
The Mill Pond Camping Area is the only campground in Caddo Lake State Park that has sites with no electricity but water hookups are available and the sites are located near the lakeshore of Saw Mill Pond. Each site features a picnic table, fire pit, and an outdoor grill. Restrooms are located within short walking distance, and there is also one ADA-accessible site.
You should be aware that only small trailers, pop-ups, and tents are allowed to use Mill Pond due to the smaller site sizes. Also keep in mind that your vehicle must be under 5,000 pounds to access the Mill Pond Camping Area, since the bridge to reach this campground only holds up to 5,000 pounds.
There are no first-come, first-served-only camping options at Caddo Lake State Park, but you will have the option of using any sites that haven't been reserved in advance if you arrive and there are some that are free. During the peak summer month,s this might not be the best idea since the campground is a popular place for visitors, so making reservations is always advised.
If you want to do some tent camping during your visit, you can do so at any of the four campgrounds, but Mill Pond will be the best place. This is because the sites in this campground are available only for tent campers or small rigs so you won't be surrounded by large RVs. If you do decide to go tent camping, make sure to set up your tent at the allocated pad.
Looking for an alternate accommodation option? If so, you should consider staying at one of the cabins that are located within the park. There are nine individual cabins and one group cabin, all of which feature some fantastic amenities. The individual cabins can accommodate between two to six guests and two of the four-person cabins are also ADA-accessible.
All of the individual cabins are equipped with a kitchen, bathroom, shower, a fireplace, but you won't be able to bring your furry friend with you if you choose to stay in a cabin. The group cabin does not have a kitchen or a bathroom, but you are welcome to use the facilities in the Squirrel Haven camping area. If you are reserving a cabin over a weekend, you must stay on both Friday and Saturday nights.
If you love to go exploring on the water, then you will have to check out the paddling trails at the park. The main paddle launch is on the south shore of Saw Mill Pond. From there, paddlers can explore about ten trails that extend some 50 miles onto Caddo Lake and Big Cypress Bayou. One trail you don't want to miss is Hell’s Half Acre because it includes multiple types of swamps and inlets, and the Old Folk’s Playground, which has many water lilies and is incredibly serene.
Love to fish? Make sure to cast out a line during your visit. The main fishing pier is just out into Saw Mill Pond, and the main boat launch is on Big Cypress Bayou. Droopy Spanish Moss provides plenty of food for catfish and largemouth bass. Anglers can also expect to catch crappie, sunfish, and a few other kinds of freshwater fish, so don't forget to pack your fishing gear in your camper. Anglers do not need a license to fish from shore at a Texas State Park, so that is one less thing you will have to purchase if you are visiting from out of state.
If you are ready to do some exploring that means that its time to hit the trails. The Pine Ridge Loop is a nice one-mile moderate trail that goes through some of the isolated areas of this isolated park. A “moderate” trail means hikers probably need hiking boots and walking sticks. Much of this trail is rather steep. If you need a break, spend a little time on the Pine Ridge Spur. This “easy” trail is basically an unpaved sidewalk. Watch out for roots, rocks, and wayward alligators.
Looking for buried treasure sounds fun, and it is fun. All you need is a pencil, a bit of swag, and a GPS-enabled device. Geocaching is a great family-fun activity where you can look for tiny hidden or buried boxes, uncover them, replace the prize inside with a new one. The prize is usually something small, but the thrill of finding the treasure is something that your little ones will remember for a long time.
When the CCC workers arrived, there was nothing but a forgotten army base. When they left, there was a thriving state park with lots of activities. How did they get from Point A to Point B? They left some clues behind. The old Rec Hall, which included dining, sleeping, and recreation areas, is near the south end of the park. Now, it’s a cabin area. The CCC pavilion, which is a fine example of 1930s craftsmanship and workmanship, is next to the Caddo Forest Trail. And a partially-reconstructed bridge, which is now a collection of stone pillars, is not far away. If you have some time, admire the work of these special young men who helped develop the park so many moons ago.
Throughout the year Caddo Lake State Park offers various informative events and activities that are organized and implemented by the park rangers. These programs cover a very diverse range of areas, including an introduction to nature photography, birding for beginners, and paining in the park. Make sure to check the park website before you depart for your journey to see if any of these programs will be offered during your visit.