By Dana Goolsby
Uncertain, Texas- It’s hard to say which season I love photographing Caddo Lake the most. Every season offers unique views, and natural beauty is at its peak year round. But during the fall, when the mighty cypress tree forest turns yellow and orange, being on Caddo Lake is a mystical experience unmatched by any place on earth.
There are a lot of ways to experience Caddo Lake, but I consistently find myself drawn to the oldest inland marina in Texas as a gateway to the rivers and bayous that make up the state’s only natural lake. Johnson’s Ranch, located on Caddo’s main waterway, Big Cypress Bayou, has been serving sportsmen and visitors for over 100 years.
Johnson’s offers Canoe, kayak, and boat (with or without motors) rentals, as well as guided tours. If you are not familiar with the lake I highly recommend taking a Go Devil Tour. Go Devil Tours offer an up close experience of the lake with a knowledgeable guide.
Earlier this week I traveled to the upper northeast side of the state to check out the progress of the region’s fall foliage. Over the past few years, mid to late November has been the best time to enjoy a scenic road trip in the Piney Woods to take in Mother Nature’s annual color show. Although I had seen photos of brilliant red and yellow leaves beginning to surface on social media from Cass, Marion and Morris counties, I believe the peak viewing time for scenic drives will still be mid to late November throughout most of the region. Color was sparse along roadsides, with sporadic bursts of partial color as of Monday, November 3.
Predicting when and where the best color can be seen is practically impossible. There is no way to outguess Mother Nature. For this reason alone, I was pleasantly surprised when I finally arrived in Uncertain. After over a little more than two hours on the road I had not seen much color and was prepared to find Caddo Lake as green as it was the last time I visited this summer. But as soon as I pulled into Johnson’s Ranch I could tell that fall had certainly arrived in the swamp lands of Uncertain.
Across the Big Cypress Bayou from Johnson’s Ranch, the cypress trees surrounding Dick and Charlie’s Tea Room were bald, with only Spanish moss left hanging from the branches. Yet, on the marina side of the lake, cypress trees were still green. The complexity of Caddo Lake is so diverse and unpredictable that the only way to report on the cypress colors was to get on the water.
Luckily, I was able to book a tour with Angie within half an hour. The very first time I toured Caddo Lake it was with Angie, and I was excited to be joining her again. Since my first tour, I had researched the lake and was excited to have the opportunity to ask her questions on this trip. Angie has lived on Caddo lake for over 30 years, and grew up in the region. Her knowledge of the lake, its inhabitants, and its unique history make her an excellent guide.
As we moved down boat roads, and glided over invasive plant life, the lake proved it knows no rules or boundaries about time. Each tree’s color seemed to be on its own clock. For instance, you might see one cypress tree sporting bright orange needles, and five feet away the next tree might be completely bald. In other places, the cypress trees were partially bald with bright green needles still in tact.
Overall, as of November 3, the lake appeared to be about 75% color, with some areas still vibrantly green and others completely bald. Yellow lilies have disappeared, and only a few white lilies remain floating on the lily pads. Photographers and outdoor lovers hoping to take in the fiery orange color change of the largest cypress wood forest in the world should report to Caddo Lake as soon as possible.
Take a look at the MYETX Fall on Caddo slideshow.
MYETX encourages you to take a scenic drive in the Piney Woods this fall and experience the autumn glory of the region. East Texas offers the largest display of fall colors in Texas.
Don’t forget to hashtag your east Texas fall photos on Instagram with #MYETX to share foliage reports from your neck of the woods. You can also send in reports to the MYETX.com Facebook page or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.