Bayous and Cypress of Caddo Lake

Far from my home in the Texas Hill Country, there is a swamp full of cypress trees, snakes, and alligators. I’d never visited Caddo Lake in the east Texas wetlands until last week, when I had the opportunity to photograph the area. A few friends who are part time residents in a tiny town called Uncertain offered a room and their services as a boat operator/tour guide. After several months of talking about it, I finally had the time to make the 6 hour drive and hang out for a few days.

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Uncertain, Texas : Prints Available

Uncertain, Texas, is a small town on the shores of Caddo Lake. The economy is based mostly on tourism – hunting, fishing, and boating. The days are humid, quiet, and life is good.

East Texas, and certainly the area around Caddo Lake and Caddo Lake State Park, offer quite a different lifestyle than does the hill country. It seems everyone either owns a boat or has access to a boat. I think there is a church at least every half-mile of highway, and most residents have a rocking chair somewhere in the front yard or on the front porch. From this vantage point, they smile, wave and watch the world go by.

Besides the uniqueness of Caddo Lake, I also saw or experienced a few things for the first time. I saw a car towing (with a rope) a motorcycle. A guy was riding and steering the motorcycle. Both were pulled over by a police car. I tried fried alligator for the first time. I saw wolf spiders bigger than my hand, and I navigated through swarms of mosquitoes so thick I had to cover my mouth for fear of ingesting them.

Still, the trip was amazing. The cypress forest that sprawls across the 25,000 acres of swamp makes up the largest cypress forest in the world. The trees dripped with Spanish moss, often times resembling a fairy tale scene. On the boat, we weaved in and out of narrow passageways, through cypress and around stumps, (with me) always hoping to see an alligator. Alas, the only alligator I saw was battered and deep fried. I also kept an eye out for Bigfoot, but never saw one. (Several hundred Bigfoot sightings have been reported in this area since 1965 according to the Bigfoot Research Organization). One section of the bayou was called the Cathedral, where the 90-feet high cypress trees leaned in across small back-alley of water. The way through this section was dark and mysterious.

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Caddo Lake – the Cathedral 1 : Prints Available

On a stretch of bayou on Caddo Lake, cypress trees rise high and arch over the murky water below. This area of east Texas wonder is called ‘the Cathedral’ and welcomes visitors – almost always in boats – with a long tunnel of trees. The scenery is breathtaking and mysterious, and the drift through this section of the lake is not soon forgotten. On a stretch of bayou on Caddo Lake, cypress trees rise high and arch over the murky water below. This area of east Texas wonder is called ‘the Cathedral’ and welcomes visitors – almost always in boats – with a long tunnel of trees. The scenery is breathtaking and mysterious, and the drift through this section of the lake is not soon forgotten.

On one evening, the sunset was simply beautiful, and I had the good fortune of using a friend’s duck blind to stabilize the tripod to capture the waning light of day.

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Caddo Lake Sunset 3 : Prints Available

The colors of fading sunlight emblazened the sky over Caddo Lake in a palette of orange and blue and gold. The day had been mostly overcast, but when a few breaks in the clouds appeared just before sunset, a friend and I headed out on the lake and found a place to stabilize a tripod and capture this amazing end of the day.

I should note here that photographing this area proved challenging. I tend to shoot 99% of my photographs using a tripod. However, you don’t have this luxury around the lake because there is no land. Shooting from a boat in low light is difficult if you want to produce high resolution images that lend themselves to large prints. You really have to crank up the ISO (I had to put it on 1000 several times) just to obtain a fast enough shutter speed to have a chance to produce a sharp image. Many times, there was still too much movement in the boat. I do have plans to return and I’ll have a different strategy! One option is shooting from the fishing pier at Caddo Lake State Park. This little wooden dock offers good views for both sunrise and sunset, but not much in the way of unique perspectives. Still, it is a start.

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Caddo Lake State Park Black and Whtie 1 : Prints Available

Cypress trees draped in spanish moss rest along the shores of Caddo Lake. This image, taken at Caddo Lake State Park, captures the reflections of these stately trees in the calm waters at sunset.

I enjoyed my time here, and I do look forward to returning soon. Before that, though, I have a few other places and adventures planned. In the meantime, enjoy the rain, Texas!

Happy Travels

~ Rob

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