Estimated Cost: $120
2 adults, 1 night, entrance to the state park, dinner and lunch.
While still in recovery from my broken leg, and continuing the monthly travel tradition, I was looking for somewhere to go where I would not have to do a great deal of hiking yet get some awesome views. A quick search later, I came up with several good options around the state of Texas. I had to really think about it though, due to the amount of walking I’d be able to accomplish. Then there it was, Caddo Lake.
Just 3 hours east of Dallas, Caddo Lake is Texas’ only natural lake. It’s also home to a state park as well as a wildlife refuge. This is right in Karnack, TX but it overlaps into Louisiana. Caddo Lake State Park is a serene area with no reception. They offer canoeing, fishing, RVing, picnic areas, hiking trails, and more for only $4/person. To find out more about the land or to check out prices for on site cabins, click here.
Walking out onto the dock, I felt like I was walking into a scene from popular video game and movie, Silent Hill. The area was quite gray with Spanish moss everywhere. It was quite surreal, stunning, and well, silent. This is why I always say go places in the off season because you really get to enjoy it more. Sadly, earlier in the week there had been a deluge of rain so part of the park was flooded. I so wanted to get out on the canoe amongst the trees but, it will have to wait. For now, I enjoyed the silence.
There aren’t really hotels super close so it would behoove you to check the cabin rates because they are a short walk over a hill to the lake. When you go, you might want to write directions if your car doesn’t have GPS because your phone most likely will not make it. There is a massive sign pulling in and a little gas station/hamburger spot if you need nomz. At the visitor center, you can get passes while the young – and young at heart – enjoy the informative museum about the park.
As long as weather permits, the state park could fill up a day or 3. Don’t leave yet though, right by here is Caddo Lake Wildlife Refuge. This is also one that takes extra focus to find but once you pull into the front, there’s a small visitor center in a trailor. Along with free entry, they have plenty of freebees, especially for the kids. Posters, brochures, and even a place where you can touch the skeletons of some animals. Also inside is an educated tour guide and a map for an auto tour around the refuge.
The most interesting part about the refuge is its past! The land was once owned by Lady Bird Johnson’s family. Before he was president, Johnson was the son in law that convinced his wife’s family to sell the land to the military. It was then used during WWII to build and test TNT. The photo shows remains of a building where it was housed.
As of 2000, the refuge was established and the land cleaned up to be given back to the animals. There are parts of the refuge that are blocked off due to the possibility of hidden ammunition still around. However, the guide informed me that no one has ever come across any. Phew!
The auto tour does take you to another part of Caddo lake that is very calm waters. It’s so quiet, you’ll want to check out Instagram for video where the water is so still it’s a mirror image. You do have to be mindful of alligaters which inhibit this part of the lake.
So, if you’re looking for a budget friendly place to just get away for a night or the weekend, this is a great spot to disconnect. It’s also close enough to Shreveport, Louisiana where I stayed at the Residence Inn by Marriott. It’s about a 30 minute drive from the lake but minutes from all the gambling and riverside shopping/dining. I hadn’t stayed in a Residence Inn before so I will say they have these nightly happy hour activities in the lobby for people to mingle. I had some delicious peach pie with vanilla bean ice cream before even taking my bag upstairs. They have a fully loaded hot bar for breakfast, too. I had a suite which included a kitchen – perfect for an extended stay at about $90/night.