Canoeing at Caddo Lake should be on every Texan’s bucket list. The lake has miles upon miles of canoe trails, one of the largest collections of flooded cypress trees, and even some Sasquatch sightings! After seeing the magical pictures of the cypress trees framed at sunset over the water, I knew I had to plan a trip there. Just four hours from Houston, Caddo Lake was the perfect weekend destination for a break from city life to immerse myself in some wonderful nature!
What is Caddo Lake?
Caddo Lake is the second largest natural lake in the South on the border between Texas and Louisiana. The lake gets its name from the Caddo Native Americans who first lived in the area. Caddo Lake has one of the largest collections of flooded cypress forests in the US. Caddo Lake State Park protects some of the lake area, but there is so much beyond the state park to explore!
Where to Stay at Caddo Lake
The nearby towns surrounding Caddo Lake offer a few quaint places to stay. I looked at several towns in the area, but ultimately decided to focus my search on Uncertain, Texas. Legend has it that the town got its name from someone filling out a form for the government and didn’t know what to put so filled out the space with “Uncertain”. The grand town has a population of less than 100 people, a small general store, a few diners, and a weekend flea market.
Caddo Lake State Park
One option I considered was renting a cabin at the Caddo Lake State Park. The cabins are the cheapest options, but also come with minimal amenities. If you’re down to bring your own bedding and cooking utensils it could be a cool spot to camp out. I decided against it because I heard the cooler canoeing trails were located elsewhere.
Cottages at Caddo Lake
I ultimately decided to rent a furnished cottage on Caddo Lake. The area offers few hotel options and very little selection on Airbnb, but I was luckily able to find a few places with a online search. The options are mom & pop run places with set rates and websites that haven’t been updated since 2004. During peak season from March to November, the cottages book up quickly and I had to call around a few times to find availability.
I ultimately booked a room at Snug #4 at Hodgepodge Cottages in Uncertain, Texas. I chose the location because they offered free canoe rentals with booking and it was close to some well rated canoe trails. Other options I considered were Spatterdock and Johnson’s Ranch. Shady Glade Resort and Crip’s Camp were highlighted destinations on my canoe map. Once I got on the water and went canoeing, I paddled past many of these places as they were all a few blocks away. Here’s a list of all the lodging in Uncertain, Texas.
The cell service was pretty spotty while canoeing Caddo Lake, so I was on airplane mode for most of the trip and only logged onto a Wifi successfully a few times. It was a seriously wonderful weekend to disconnect and immerse myself in nature.
What to Do at Caddo Lake
The number one draw for me to visit Caddo Lake was to go canoeing! The lake has over 50 miles of trails stretching from Texas to Louisiana. Our cottage had a dock and we were easily able to access the water. Over the course of the weekend, we went on three 2-3 hour canoe trips along the following trails: Cathedral, Turtle Shell, and Old Folks Playground. In total it amounted to about 14 leisurely miles.
Navigating the trails was surprisingly easy. I borrowed the laminated map from the cottage to get around, but once we were out on the water it was straightforward to follow the giant wooden posts marking the different routes. Each route was labeled with a letter and we never really got lost.
In mid-October, we seemed to have the whole lake to ourselves. Occasionally we would see a fishing boat or a jet ski fly by, but usually we were on our own and it was truly peaceful.
It’s hard to chose when the most magical time to be on the lake is. We woke up early and watched the sunrise both days we were at Caddo Lake, as well as watch the sunset in the evening. The colors are incredible and vibrant! Paddling at sunrise in the early morning fog was eerie but beautiful. I felt like I was on the movie set of Pirates of the Caribbean.
During our trip, we saw so much wildlife! Mostly we paddled around birds, but we also saw a fox, lots of turtles, and some deer. Caddo Lake is known for it’s alligators, but we didn’t see any (despite paddling down Alligator Bayou and everything!). No Sasquatch sighting either.
It was a bit heartbreaking to see the Giant Salvinia taking over the lake. Giant Salvinia is a fast-spreading aquatic fern that doubles in size every few days and kills all life under the surface. It was introduced by accident by boaters and has since been a serious threat to the lake’s existence. Efforts to combat it have included using herbicides and beetles which are slowly curbing the weeds growth over the past decade. The blooming lily pads were gorgeous though!
Other Caddo Lake Activities
The towns around the lake offer several water-centric activities such as boat tours and fishing expeditions (here’s a list!). You’ll need to call ahead to book those.
Lafitte’s Caddo Lake Grocery is the local corner store with lake basics like ice and beer, but doesn’t offer much in terms of fresh foods, so plan accordingly. I would recommend grabbing groceries at the Kroger in Karnack which is a 30 minute drive away. We bought breakfast items, sandwich fixings, ingredients for simple pasta, and plenty of beer. Our cottage had a grill and a fire pit, but we needed charcoal and lighter fluid to get those going.
We ate breakfast once at the Shady Glade Cafe. They served basic breakfast items like unlimited hot coffee, eggs plates, grits, and toast. On the first and third weekends of the month, Uncertain has a flea market.
What I Packed
In October the weather was a bit brisk, so I brought layers to help work through the heat and the cold depending on what time of day I was out. These are some of my things that I recommend packing when you’re getting out on the water:
- Water proof bag for canoeing — I got one of these for the Buffalo Bayou Regatta and it’s a game changer!
- Water proof picnic blanket
- Small picnic cooler
- Water proof phone case
- HOU Hat (I bring this everywhere!)
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Hand sanitizer – camp bathrooms are gross. I like this natural option!
- Sunscreen – Coola White Tea Face Sunscreen is my favorite.
- Tissues – again camp bathrooms.
- Water bottle — I love my Swell that insulates! Sometimes I put hot tea inside to drink when I’m cold.
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If you’re looking for other fun outdoorsy Texas adventures, check out these posts:
- Hiking at Sam Houston National Forest
- Kayaking in Buffalo Bayou
- Enchanted Rock Hikes
- Where to Find Bluebonnets