Camp Alongside One Of The Largest Lakes In Texas At This Stunning State Park

Three hours east of Dallas, visitors will find a destination that feels as peaceful as it does prehistoric. Caddo Lake State Park is home to the largest naturally formed lake in Texas, known for its flooded forest of cypress trees draped in Spanish moss. It's the perfect place to weave around in a kayak and appreciate the beauty of the bayous, the slow-moving marshes that create a unique ecosystem for a variety of flora and fauna.

Named a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar treaty in 1971, Caddo Lake is a protected area and one of the most diverse plant communities in Texas. It's also a refuge for 47 species of mammals, 90 species of reptiles and amphibians, 86 species of fish, and 216 species of birds, says the Caddo Lake Institute. If you're lucky, you might even spot a paddlefish, the oldest surviving animal species in North America from the pre-dinosaur era 300 million years ago.

Things to do at Caddo Lake

With a 26,810-acre lake, there's no shortage of water activities in this Texas state park. Fishing is a big draw, as there is a boat ramp and fishing pier for visitors, with no fishing license required when fishing from the shore. You can also rent a canoe and explore one of the many paddle trails in the area, including the Hell's Half Acre Paddling Trail through the rivers and backwater swamp. You may spot an American Alligator, or two, sunbathing next to the waterway, so be sure to give them at least 30 feet of space.

Back on land, the state park has three miles of trails, ranging from easy to moderate. Experienced hikers may enjoy the Pine Ridge Loop or the Caddo Forest Trail. At an hour each, these intermediate treks are a great way to stretch your legs and explore the hills that surround the water. If you're a bird-watcher, don't forget your binoculars, as the Caddo Lake wetlands are part of a migratory bird path known as the Central Flyway. You might catch a glimpse of bald eagles, wood ducks, woodpeckers, and warblers, to name a few.

Accommodation and rates

At minimum, plan for at least half a day to take in the sights around Caddo Lake, says the state park website. But if you want to stay a little longer and enjoy the scenery, there are several accommodation options available. A campsite costs $10 to $20 per night, depending on whether you want a basic campsite or one with electricity. If you have an RV, there are sites with full hook-ups for $25. All campsites include a picnic table, outdoor grill, a fire ring, and restrooms nearby.

To keep the bugs at bay, you can also opt for a screened shelter for $25 per night, which includes a picnic table, grill, and access to water and electricity. For a few more creature comforts, you can stay in an enclosed dwelling with a bit of history. In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) converted several army barracks and a mess hall into a collection of log cabins that are used by visitors today. The cabins can sleep two to eight people for $40 to $115 per night.

Entrance to the park costs $4 per person. Children under the age of 12 can get in for free. The park is open every day from 8:15 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. The busy season is March through November, but no matter when you visit, it's best to reserve your spot online, as the park often reaches capacity. This is one dream camping destination you don't want to miss.