|Caddo Lake's winter look.|
We know our favorite wetlands are valuable, however Caddo Lake is the only site in Texas that has earned a Wetlands of International Importance designation under the Ramsar Convention.
Residents have long appreciated the beauty of the 8,000 acres of flooded bald cypress forest.
“It’s a mystical place,” said Stella Barrow, Cypress Basin TMN chapter president who can launch a boat from her home on Caddo Lake.
“You have to experience Caddo Lake to get why the adventures are special. The bald cypress trees and the Spanish moss provide the quiet peace and the mystical beauty. I swear as soon as we push off my blood pressure drops. The sunsets are breathtaking. I don't know the words. It's just another world.”
Members of the Cypress Basin chapter are among those working to preserve the wetlands. Chapter members maintain the walking trails on the Caddo Lake National Wildlife Refuge and conduct most of the training for new members at the refuge. The chapter is a sponsor for the Earth Day, April 22, paddling regatta.
“Our chapter and the refuge Friends group received an $11,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to install an e-bird kiosk, build two bird blinds and a walking trail on the refuge,” Stella said. “We are super excited!”
Having the Ramsar designation gives Caddo Lake an advantage to get federal grants, attract research projects and obtain technical support for long-term protection of wetland resources, including the ongoing fight against giant salvinia (Salvinia molesta).
The Ramsar Convention was formed by countries and international organizations concerned about the loss and degradation of wetlands habitat for migratory birds.
A call for a global environmental treaty began in the 1960s. The language of the convention was negotiated for eight years before the first conference was held in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971 and a treaty was signed. Australia’s Cobourg Peninsula became the first Ramsar site in 1974.
Today there are 2,250 sites and 169 member nations. The U.S. has 38 sites. The latest U.S. site is Chiwaukee Illinois Beach Lake Plain, on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan.
In 1993, Caddo Lake became the 13th Ramsar Site in the U.S. The original designation area included about 8,000 acres of public land, 500 acres in Caddo Lake State Park and 7,500 acres in the Caddo Lake State Wildlife Management Area. In 1998, the site was expanded to include about 11,700 additional acres, including 1,400 acres of the old Longhorn Army Ammunition Plant, which became the Caddo Lake National Wildlife Refuge, and some private lands.
To earn the designation, a Ramsar site must contain a unique example of natural wetlands, support important populations of plant and animal species, support animals at critical life stages, and support indigenous fish to contribute to global biological diversity.
According to the Caddo Lake Institute website, the Texas site meets the criteria because:
• It is one of the best examples of mature flooded bald cypress forest in the U.S.
• The area supports about 216 bird, 47 mammal and 90 reptile/amphibian species, including peregrine falcon, alligator snapping turtle and Eastern big-eared bat. Bald cypress trees up to 400 years old are stars among the diverse plant life.
• It is popular on the Central Flyway for migrating birds, including wood ducks and prothonotary warblers.
• Lake diversity includes up to 86 fish fauna and 18 species of game fish.
When you visit the area, plan to get on the water to experience the unique environment, said Richard Lowerre, Caddo Lake Institute executive director. “That means a boat.”
“But a place I take people to get a feel for the system is the Mill Pond at the Caddo Lake State Park. It is the easiest place to find, and you can drive to it,” Richard said. “There are also great CCC cabins to rent at the park, and you can put in your canoe or kayak or fish off the fishing pier. The lake is 26,000 acres, and there are many different environments and conditions to explore.”
|We rented a place on the water when we visited in February.|