Friday, March 20, 2015

Caddo Lake, The Great Red River Raft & Sighting Bigfoot

  Caddo Lake is a 25,400-acre lake and wetland on the border between Texas and Louisiana. Named after Caddo Native Americans who lived in the area until displacement by white settlers, Caddo Lake is an internationally protected wetland featuring the largest cypress forest in the world. It is one of Texas's few non-oxbow natural lakes and is the 2nd largest in the South. Its size has been altered in modern times by dams.   Caddo Lake
Photo by:

According to Caddo legend the lake was formed by the 1812 New Madrid Earthquake after a Caddo chief failed to obey the Great Spirit. However, most geologists believe the lake was formed by the “Great Raft”, a huge log jam on the Red River in Louisiana that likely flooded the adjacent low-lying area.

The Great Raft probably began forming around 1100–1200 AD. At its peak in the early 1830s, the raft extended more than 160 miles. The Great Raft protected the Caddo people from competing tribes and the periodic flooding it caused made the land fertile for agriculture. 
Great Red River Raft
Photo from 1870s when the Great Raft was being broken up

Reaching from Campti, Louisiana, to around Shreveport, the Raft impeded westward settlement. It raised the banks of the Red River, forming bayous and several lakes, called the Great Raft Lakes, which included Caddo Lake. 
Steamboat builder and river captain Henry Miller Shreve 1785–1851) began removal of the Great Raft. He finished the task in 1838, allowing navigation on the Red River. Small river boats travelled the chain of lakes as far as Jefferson, Texas, which soon became an important river port for goods and passengers. The city of Shreveport, Louisiana, was named after Captain Shreve.
Capt. Henry M. Shreve
Capt. Henry Millar Shreve; Wikipedia Commons; public domain

Later, the raft reformed farther up river, growing until it reached the Arkansas state line. Destruction of this second raft was completed by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers in 1874. Unfortunately, with the removal of the log jams, water levels slowly fell to a point where steamboat passage was no longer possible. Railroads soon replaced travel by water.

Although Caddo Lake never went totally dry thanks to being situated in a “bowl,” it did get very low. In 1914 an earthen dam was built near Mooringsport, Louisiana, that raised the water level close to where it had been before the Great Raft was removed. A modern replacement dam was completed in 1971, constructed by the Corps of Engineers.

Oil was discovered beneath Caddo Lake and the world's first over water oil platform was built in 1911. The Ferry Lake No. 1 was erected by Gulf Refining Company. Soon, oil derricks sprang up all over the lake, damaging the fragile ecosystem until drillers left for richer fields. Texas sought to preserve parts of Caddo in 1934 by establishing a state park, constructed by the WPA. However, the Longhorn Army Ammunition Plant was built on the shores of Caddo Lake in the mid-20th century, polluting the surrounding wetlands until its closure in the 1990s.

In 1993, it was announced that 7,000 acres of Caddo purchased by the Nature Conservancy would merge with the 483-acre Caddo Lake State Park, becoming the Caddo Lake State Park and Wildlife Management Area. Also in 1993, thanks to efforts by the Caddo Lake Institute (co-founded by Dwight K. Shellman and Don Henley, famous lead singer for The Eagles) Caddo Lake became one of thirteen areas in the U.S. protected under the international Ramsar Treaty.

Along the shores of Caddo Lake and Cypress Creek, stand many towns and ghost towns dating back to the Republic of Texas. Swanson's Landing was near where the steamer Mittie Stevens caught fire in 1869, when passengers burned to death at night, not realizing the shore was so close and the water so shallow. Farther up the bayou, Port Caddo was the northeast entry point into the Republic of Texas, and Benton was the head of navigation before Jefferson took that honor. A short distance inland from Port Caddo is the site of Macon, called the "Lost Colony" after its settlers moved to Port Caddo.
Bigfoot in SwampSince 1965 there have been hundreds of alleged Bigfoot sightings around Caddo Lake, according to the Texas Bigfoot Research Center (TBRC) -- reported in the Travel Channel’s 2006 documentary Bigfoot. Fascinated by such weird but wonderful tales, I was inspired to include such an incident (with an unexpected twist) in RESCUING LARA, Romancing the Guardians Book I. Here’s a glimpse of “Bigfoot” through Lara’s eyes.

Seated at the huge table, feeling desperately alone, she swallowed the last bite and was about to take a final sip of coffee when a wave of fear swept through her.

Her head snapped up and she set her cup down hard. Knowing her inner alarm was warning of danger, she pushed back from the table, grabbed her cane and stood. Pulse beating double-time, she headed into the hall, pausing to stare at the front door windows. It was almost sunset and the outdoor lights had automatically turned on. Seeing no figure outlined against the frosted glass panes, she continued into the great room. Her gaze went to the oversize picture window and she screamed at the top of her lungs.

Illuminated by the porch lights, a giant hairy creature stood looking in at her. Too terrified to move, she returned its stare. The ape-like thing gave a deep rumble and slapped the window with a huge paw.

Lara jumped and whimpered in terror. Released from her petrified trance, she lurched into the hall, heart hammering and breath rasping in her throat. She hobbled into the kitchen as fast as her weak leg would carry her and glanced around, panic threatening to overcome her. Then her gaze landed on a wooden knife block squatting on the counter near the stove. Limping over there, she fumbled through the collection of knives with trembling fingers, dropping several on the granite countertop.

She settled on the biggest, heaviest butcher knife, certain nothing else would stop that gigantic creature if it broke in. Could the thing actually be a man dressed in a gorilla suit, trying to frighten her? If so, he’d succeeded.

Clutching the weapon in her fist, she hobbled toward the hall, gaze glued to the windows behind the dining table, afraid the ape thing might come around back. Seeing no sign of it, she inched her way along the hallway to the great room. She paused just before the entrance, clammy with fear, and darted a look around the corner. The creature had disappeared from the window, although it could be lurking out of sight on the wraparound porch, searching for a way in.

All the doors and windows on the main floor were locked. She’d made sure of that when the likelihood of spending the night alone struck like a punch to her stomach, but she hadn’t checked the upstairs windows. Danu save her! The ape – or man – might climb to the balcony over the porch. She had to see if those bedroom windows were locked, even though logic told her the thing could easily break one.

The great room seemed twice as cavernous as before; she dreaded stepping in there, knowing the beast might reappear at any moment, but she had no choice if she wanted to reach the staircase in the far corner. Screwing up her courage, she started across the room, glancing at the window as she wound her way between pieces of furniture. Almost to the stairs, she heard heavy footsteps on the porch and caught movement from the corner of her eye.

Lara gasped, dropped her cane and dove behind an overstuffed chair. She peeked around the padded armrest and saw the man-ape standing outside with both enormous paws, no, hands pressed flat against the windowpane. It turned its massive head back and forth, obviously looking for her. Could it break through the extra-thick glass? She prayed not.

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  1. Thanks for the interesting post, Lyn!

  2. Bigfoot! I've never seen a post about Bigfoot, and now you've included "him" into a novel. This is great stuff.
    I know Caddo Lake is the only natural lake in Texas, and about Jefferson, too--driven through there many times on the way to I-20 to Little Rock--and the steamboat port.
    But this is the first I've know about that "raft". That is amazing, isn't it? Just amazing. That part of Texas is pretty, more like part of Arkansas with the tall pine trees and rolling hills and grass.
    Your novel is intriguing--I wish you much luck with it.

  3. Interesting history of Caddo Lake. I had no idea Shreveport Louisiana was named for an actual person. Who would have thought there could be such a huge log jam? Wow.
    I loved the Big Foot excerpt. I like that there is still some mystery left in the world. What fun would it be if we had explored so extensively we knew what was and wasn't everywhere on Earth? I don't know why I have such a fascination with Big Foot, but I do. I would be terrified if I saw one, too.

  4. Ah, it's my friend Doc! Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Celia, East Texas is indeed beautiful. So different from here in the DFW area, and where you live too. It makes a good place for Conn and Lara to hide out - until "Bigfoot" shows up. But beware, a surprise awaits.

  6. Sarah, you're a woman after my own heart. I'm also fascinated by legends of Bigfoot, the Yeti and Sasquatch, and just about any mysterious subject. When I decided to utilize Caddo Lake for one of the settings in Rescuing Lara, I couldn't resist having Bigfoot make an appearance.

  7. If I hadn't already done so, the excerpt would force me to purchase this book. I've always thought Caddo Lake the eeriest place I've ever been. I do love going to Jefferson, but going with my husband to fish (I read while he fishes) always gives me goosebumps. I can easily believe some creature is lurking nearby to pounce. LOL

  8. Hi Lyn
    I know this is off topic but just wanted your opinion on something. I live in Ireland and am wtiting my first Novel. It is crime fiction and based in San Antonio Texas. One issue I am having difficulty with is US / Texas law enforcement agencies and likely procedure in my story. I just thought given you are Texas based and had to do the opposite research regarding some Irish slant in your work, maybe you might know somewhere on line I can find a critique partner.Hey if someone in Texas needs a critique based in the Western fringes of Europe, I'm their man!
    John O'Neill

  9. I hate to say this but if Bigfoot does exist than he don't want no more to do with me than I do him and if we do by some chance meet out in the woods I pray to god.i have a Barrett 50 cal. Rifle with me and a whole lot of ammo cause I think anything else would do nothing but piss him off.And that's does not sound like an injoyable option so all you big on finding Bigfoot people when you do come face to face with him let me know how it turns out if your able.


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