KARNACK (KYTX) – Ten new paddling trails encompassing more than 50 miles will open along a scenic stretch of Big Cypress Bayou and areas in and around Caddo Lake on Saturday to coincide with World Wetlands Day.
Five of the 10 new loop trails leave from Backwater Jack's R.V. Park, which is nestled along the Spanish moss-draped Big Cypress Bayou shore near Jefferson. The other five trails feature put-in locations on Caddo Lake in and around Uncertain. The shortest trail (Benton Lake Loop on the Big Cypress) covers 2.4 miles round trip and meanders upstream from Backwater Jack's. The longest paddle trail (Hell's Half-Acre) covers 8.8 miles round trip and leaves from Caddo Lake State Park.
"The launch of these 10 trails represents the most trails ever opened on one day since the Texas Paddling Trails program began in 1998," says Shelly Plante, nature tourism manager for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. "The Caddo area trails increase the total number of official state paddling trails to 48, giving Texans over 430 miles of day-trip trails to explore throughout the state."
City, county and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials, along with representatives of area organizations, will gather at Caddo Lake State Park for a 1 p.m. ribbon cutting and dedication of the trails, weather permitting. Park entry fees will be waived for the event. Stop at the park office to obtain a promotional pass that is good for the duration of the ceremony.
In addition to the dedication ceremony, the public also is invited earlier that day to an 11 a.m. community meeting being held at the Karnack Community Center that will include presentations and discussions about the status of the Caddo Lake Ramsar Wetlands. The public is invited to stay for a free lunch between the meeting and the paddling trails dedication. Persons planning to attend should R.S.V.P. to Dawn Orsak at the Caddo Lake Institute by calling (512) 482-9345 or e-mailing her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paddlers on the new Caddo trails will find themselves amid mature bald cypress swamps and bottomland hardwood forests that are home to diverse flora and fauna. Approximately 216 bird, 47 mammal, and 90 reptile and amphibian species occur in the area. A number of animals and plants here are considered rare, threatened or endangered under national and international laws. These species include, but are not limited to, the peregrine falcon, the alligator snapping turtle, and Rafinesque's big-eared bat. More information about the paddling trails can be found on informational kiosks located at each trail access site.
World Wetlands Day is celebrated Feb. 2 each year to commemorate the signing date in 1971 in Ramsar, Iran of the Convention to Protect Wetlands of International Importance. More than 160 nations have signed the treaty and agreed to protect wetlands within their boundaries. There are now over 2,000 designated Ramsar sites around the world and 34 sites in the United States. In October 1993, the Caddo Lake site became the 13th to be designated in the U.S. and, after enlargement in 1998, now includes approximately 20,000 acres of public and private lands designated "wetlands of international importance."
To develop the paddling trails, TPWD partnered with Backwater Jack's R.V. Park, the Greater Caddo Lake Association, Cypress Basin Chapter-Texas Master Naturalist, Friends of the Caddo Lake National Wildlife Refuge, and Caddo Lake Wildlife Management Area. Canoe and kayak rentals are available through outfitters nearby at Backwater Jack's in Karnack, Crip's Camp and Johnson's Ranch in Uncertain and East Texas Sonar in Longview.
The Texas Paddling Trails program helps promote habitat conservation through sustainable economic development, while providing additional recreational opportunities to the public. More Americans paddle (canoe, kayak or raft) than play soccer, making it one of the fastest-growing nature tourism experiences.