There is something very nice about a natural lake. The physical surroundings do not seem out of place and the wildlife does not feel transplanted. Furthermore, it’s easier to connect with the people who lived in that area so long ago.
That’s certainly the case with Caddo Lake State Park in East Texas. Eons ago, huge log jams along the Red River probably formed the bayous of Louisiana, and these same forces probably formed Caddo Lake as well. Then, about 12,000 years ago, the earliest humans arrived. Bands of hunters and gatherers eventually became permanent villages. The Caddo Indians arrived in the 18th century. 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).
New settlers arrived about a hundred and fifty years later and they found oil nearby in the early 20th century. Engineers built a flood control dam in 1914, and another one in 1971. In the interim, the Civilian Conservation Corps built a state park 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 RV camping spot. This Park contains several, well-developed RV campsites. 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. You can paddle among this mysterious lake or fish from the shore. You might even spot an alligator or two! From hiking to boating Caddo Lake State Park is a must-stop for your next RV trip to Texas.
RV Rentals in Caddo Lake State Park
Transportation in Caddo Lake State Park
Caddo Lake State Park is about halfway between Shreveport and Texarkana just off Route 43 and just outside the tiny East Texas berg of Karnack, which was the childhood home of Lady Bird Johnson. Jefferson, which is basically the Texas town which time forgot, is nearby as well.
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 (you can’t make this stuff up). Uncertain has several hotels, marinas, and even an “airport.”
Route 43 is a mostly two-lane road that’s a bit narrow and cut through thick East Texas forests. Fortunately, Route 43 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.
Parking is available throughout the 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. Of course, you can also park at your campsite if you are staying overnight.
Campgrounds and parking in Caddo Lake State Park
Campsites in Caddo Lake State Park
Armadillo Run and Squirrel Haven Campgrounds
Armadillo Run and Squirrel Haven Campgrounds offer the best sites for RV camping. 19 sites are available and each site has a picnic table, lamp stand, fire ring, and outdoor grill. You will be in total comfort with water hookups and a 30 amp electrical hookup. Most sites are paved and shaded so you can enjoy the serenity of the great outdoors with enchanting forest all around you.
Showers and restrooms are within walking distance. If you want to head over to the lake you can simply walk or ride a bike. If you are bringing an extra vehicle these two campgrounds also have lots of additional parking. Several sites are ADA accessible. Reservations can be made up to five months in advance. Pets are welcome, but must be on a leash.
This 8-site campground recently received an extensive makeover, including new bathroom facilities and an upgraded sewer system. A parking loop at the north end of this campground is connected to a hiking trail, and a creek meanders right through the middle of the campground. The bathroom facilities also include hot showers. Each site has a fire ring, picnic table, outdoor grill, water hookup, and 50 amp electricity hookup. You are welcome to stay with your pet as well.
Mill Pond Camping Area
These tent twenty sites are adjacent to, you guessed it, Saw Mill Pond. Three of the sites are almost literally right on the lakeshore. However, RVs are not allowed at these sites. Only small trailers and tents are permitted. Each site features a picnic table, fire pit, water, and an outdoor grill. Restrooms are located nearby. ADA accessible sites are available.
There are no first-come, first-served camping options at this state park.
Nine individual cabins and one group cabin are available for rent. Amenities include a children’s play area and an RV dump station.
Seasonal activities in Caddo Lake State Park
The main paddle launch is on the south shore of Saw Mill Pond. From there, paddlers can explore about ten trails which 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, plus it has many water lilies and is incredibly serene. During certain times of year, watch out for duck hunters on the shore and Live and Let Die-type speedboats on the bayou.
Anglers do not need a license to fish from shore at a Texas state park. 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.
If you are ready to hit the trail it's time to get out of the camper. 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. Look for tiny hidden or buried boxes, uncover them, replace the prize inside with a new one. The prize is usually something like a pencil eraser. Give yourself a virtual smiley face, and move on to the next place where X marks the spot.
Viewing Civilian Conservation Corps Landmarks
When Civilian Conservation Corps (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.
Sightseeing at the Saw Mill Pond Fishing Pier
This scenic overlook (or what passes for an “overlook” in these parts) gives visitors sweeping views of the bayous and lakes which twist and turn through the area. Plus, the Spanish Moss is something right out of one of those Old South novels. You won't want to forget the camera in the rig when you set your eyes on these incredible views.