Monday, August 9, 2010

Prehistoric Texas

There have been times in my life when someone might have suggested that I go see or experience some thing or some place. At that point, you start to try and visualize whatever it is they’re talking about. When you actually arrive at the recommendation, you’re either pleasantly surprised while other times you’re disappointed. Kind of like someone recommending a movie and you either like it or you don’t. Never much of an in-between.

This would be the case of Caddo Lake and the first time my father ever took me to Uncertain, Texas. I was in my sophomore year in college and he made the suggestion that we go fishing. Since I had never been to Caddo, that might be a good place to try as he had fished there many times in his youth and he wanted me to see the lake.

Growing up in the region, I had sadly never been to Caddo Lake. It’s important to note that Caddo had long lost its luster for fishing by the 70s when newly created Toledo Ben became the hottest fishing lake around. Many mornings as a kid, I slept in the floorboard of a dark green Pontiac pulling a boat headed towards a full day of fishing on this massive reservoir lake. I had never even heard of Caddo until my dad suggested it.

I’ve read several articles and seen hundreds of images placing Caddo as a point of interest and they all fall short in my opinion. The articles as well as the photography are mere pinpricks against a massive rock mountain. And why would I say this? If you look at a picture of an elephant, it’s an elephant. Not much else going on with it and it just doesn’t pack much of a punch. Now take that same elephant and put yourself four feet in front of it and it’s a little different. You are now aware of how massive they are and you begin to understand what an amazing animal the elephant really is.

The same is true for Caddo Lake. I’ve never read or seen anything that would match the impact created by being in the middle of this 25,400 acre lake covered in cypress trees dressed in Spanish moss. It’s truly another dimension in itself and for a moment you feel like you’ve gone back in time. At any second, you’re under the illusion that you might see a prehistoric animal. And you’re not that far off as I’ve met some fishing guides that could pass as prehistoric animals.

Like the elephant, it is massive in person. So massive, that it’s not uncommon that you would get lost among all the waterways and trees. I ventured out one afternoon with some friends on what we thought would be a short cruise. Before we knew it, a dark cloud had rolled in and it started to rain. A couple of wrong turns later and we had no idea where we were. When the lightning started flashing, one of my best friends smiled at me and said, “Man I hope all you boys have been tithing.”

The lake was named after the Caddo Indians who lived within the area until their expulsion in the 19th century. It is said to be the home of 189 species of trees, 216 species of birds, 90 different fish and reptiles and 47 different mammals.

Located on the Texas Louisiana border, it is the only natural lake in the state of Texas. According to legend, the lake was created by an earthquake in 1812 but it’s more likely that it formed gradually by the “Great Raft” which was a 100 mile long log jam on the Red River in Louisiana.

Whatever the case, I will say that there is no amount of writing that will prepare you for the Caddo experience. Even if you’re not a fisherman, it’s well worth a boat tour. Or what the locals call a go-devil tour which is a flat bottom boat attached to an extended propeller capable of getting you anywhere in the swamp.

And yes, there are alligators. So make sure you invite that coworker who gets on your nerves. Tell them you’re all going swimming.

Peace Out…Bait it up and gitty up!

Photos of Caddo Lake by Sam Smead

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