U.S. National Forest Campground Guide

Caddo National Grassland


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Grassland Information

The Caddo National Grassland (of the Caddo-Lyndon B. Johnson National Grasslands) is located in northeast Texas and covers 17,784 acres. There are five developed campgrounds, three of which meet the selection criteria.

Northwest of Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas, south of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and stretching along the Red River, is the Caddo National Grassland. This was once the home of great herds of bison, antelope, deer, elk and the Caddo Indians. They were the largest Indian culture in northeast Texas and first cultivators of the land. They were forced out around the mid-1700s by the more aggressive Apache and Comanche people. The European settlers, primarily stockmen, moved into the area in the 1800s with the farmers following in the early 1900s. The land has seen great cattle drives, an estimated ten million head, and the arrival of barbed wire. Cattle, barbed wire, and farming brought major change to the land.

The areas now designated as "grasslands" were settled in the 1800s under a variety of "Homestead Acts" which opened the land to people, generally farmers, and helped to settle the west. A prolonged period of drought in the late 1920s into the 1930s caused some homesteads on sub-marginal farmland (a location receiving 15 or fewer inches of annual moisture) to literally dry up and blow away. During this time, Congress established the Land Utilization Program (LUP) which bought homesteads from bankrupt private owners and returned it to public land status. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) helped to stabilize the eroding soil by re-seeding it and applying other conservation techniques. In the 1950s, the LUP holdings were assigned to the USDA Forest Service that was tasked with management of these sub-marginal lands. Over the years the Forest Service has established some twenty National Grasslands. "The designation of the area as National Grassland is not a description of the area as much as a statement of policy and effort to restore the area to a multiple of uses and benefits."

The Caddo National Grassland has three sections: Ladonia, Bois d'Arc and Lake Fannin. Ladonia is the least developed but offers visitors a good opportunity to see the native "Blackland prairie." Blackland prairie is a special mixture of soil and mineral deposits giving the freshly plowed soil its distinctive black color. The highly productive soil can support a great variety of plant and animal species but overgrazing and poor farming practices reduced the land's health.

In 1935, under the authority of the National Recovery Act, the initial purchases by the federal government of land that contain the Caddo, were the Bois d'Arc and Lake Fannin sections. It was called the Northeast Texas Grazing, Game and Recreation Project. The objective was to promote better land utilization, provide work for the local citizens and develop water-oriented recreation facilities. Construction on the 388-acre Lake Crockett began soon after the land was available; the lake continues to attract people for a variety of recreation opportunities. Anglers come for the Largemouth bass and a various panfish. Campers enjoy the small adjacent campground with its sites tucked in among grand old oak trees. Photographers and bird-watchers come to enjoy the unique sights of the grassland.

West of Lake Crockett and south of the small community of Telephone is a pleasant campground designed for equestrian campers. The Bois D'Arc Trailhead campground is near the Bois d'Arc trailhead that offers riders a network of more then 26 miles of trails in and around Coffee Mill Lake, a much smaller version of Crockett Lake. Just a few miles on the trail, visitors are likely to think the term "grasslands" is misleading. Most of the trail is through groves of large trees. These trees, mostly oak and hickory, provide shade for riders and hikers and habitat for a great variety of birds and animals. It is not surprising to see wildlife along the trail, next to a road, or anywhere in the Caddo.

One interesting geological feature found in Caddo, between Davy Crockett Lake and Honey Grove, Texas, are the "mina mounds." Also called "pimple mounds" or "prairie blisters," no one knows the real reason for these two-foot high rounded hillocks.

The Lake Fannin section is unique from both the Ladonia and Bois d'Arc sections. Lake Fannin Park was the focus of a higher level of development back in the 1930s and 1940s. In an effort to bring the best and most progressive recreation opportunities to the area, a lodge, numerous cabins, and swim beach with bathhouse were built along the shores of Lake Fannin. Today, the Lodge is available for special events and there is talk of making a few of the cabins available for rent by the public. A recently added feature to the Lake Fannin section is a four-mile mountain bike trail that loops around the Lake (it's getting good reviews). The Lodge may be old but a feature of the Lodge, aside from the fantastic workmanship and gorgeous woods used inside, is the view of Oklahoma from the back patio. There is only dispersed tent camping available in this section but it is well- worth a day trip to see what the Caddo National Grassland offered years ago.

In the Spring, all through the Caddo, visitors can enjoy the spectacular experience of viewing migratory neo-tropical birds from Central and South America. The display of these winged visitors to the Caddo compete with the Springtime show of wildflowers. Photographers and nature-lovers agree, Spring in Caddo is magnificent.

Wildlife, such as white-tailed deer, small mammals, coyotes, bobcats, red fox, bobwhite quail, turkey, waterfowl, and songbirds, abound in the Caddo National Grassland. Visitors may not see all these critters during each trip and the wildflowers may not be at their spectacular best but their presence is a testament to the success of the Forest Service efforts. Any time of year, come and see how well the Caddo National Grassland is doing.

SUPERVISOR ADDRESS 415 S. First Street Suite 110 Lufkin, Texas 75901 936-639-8501 RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES Caddo-LBJ 1400 US Hwy. 81/287 POB 507 Decatur, TX 76234 940-627-5475

Fred and Suzi Dow