If you like quiet waters and majestic cypress forests, head to Far East Texas and the Caddo Lake State Park. Located northeast of Marshall, the park has heavily shaded campsites and smooth paddling for your canoe or kayak.
There is a boat launch site with direct access to Big Cypress Bayou for fishing boats. Paddle craft can launch from an inlet right by the campgrounds. The park has canoes for rent if you don’t have your own.
The only drawback to paddling in the area is the outbreak of Giant Salvinia. The plant clogs the waterways and makes paddling treacherous, if not impossible. It just depends on the wind. On the days I was there the bayou water was clear and there was no difficulty paddling anywhere around the park. The problem is worse in the summer months.
There are a half-dozen hiking trails in the park, mostly through the woods with heavy tree cover. The trails are beautiful in the fall with yellow, gold and red colors on the leaves. In the summer the trails are heavily shaded.
The State Park’s campgrounds are rather small, with fewer than 50 campsites. There are also cabins and screened shelters. Most weekends are booked up, so advance reservations are recommended. I went during the week and the place was almost deserted.
There are other camping options in the area if the park is full. Backwater Jacks is a popular private campground west of the park. Located right on the water, it has sites for RV’s and an open field for tent campers. Again, weekends are usually booked up, so call in advance to reserve a spot, especially for an RV.
For paddlers and boaters, Backwater Jack’s is also a more dependable location, as the Giant Salvinia hasn’t affected that area.
Cell phone service in the state park is spotty. I found a workable hot spot near the headquarters, and there was cell service at convenience stores nearby, just off the park property.
The only drawback is there is only one shower in the entire campground, and it was closed for remodeling when I was there.
But for pure beauty and serenity Caddo Lake State Park is a great trip. I’ll be going back.
For more information, visit the Texas Parks & Wildlife website.