About the Refuge


The Caddo Lake National Wildlife Refuge was established to ensure the conservation and protection of migratory and resident waterfowl and neotropical migratory birds that depend on Caddo Lake.

The site of the refuge was a part of the territory of the Caddo nation, native Americans whose powerful confederacy dominated the Red River and Big Cypress wetlands. The Caddos were a clever and generally peaceful confederacy whose wetlands skills contributed to their mastery of agriculture and pottery. Earliest accounts of the Caddos reported by Spanish and French explorers describe them as self-sufficient, resourceful, and the most advanced of Native Americans west of the Mississippi.

Texas in fact got its name from the Caddo Indian word "tay-shas," meaning "friend" or "ally." Not far from the present day Caddo Lake National Wildlife Refuge, the Spanish were the first Europeans to encounter the Caddos. They mistakenly thought that tay-shas was the name the Caddos gave to their lands and transcribed it in Spanish to "Tejas," which subsequent Anglo-Americans pronounced "Texas."

Eventually this area of the refuge became home to a great mix of early pioneers, including settlers who took up residence and trappers and fishermen who camped along Caddo Lake's shoreline. Timber operators and cotton plantations took advantage of this site's abundant forests and rich, river loam soil. Obtained by the U.S. Army in 1941, today’s refuge was once a munitions site until the end of the cold war. Recognizing the importance of the wetlands, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approached the Army about turning the munitions site into a wildlife refuge to be managed for the benefit of wildlife. On October 19, 2000, the Caddo Lake National Wildlife Refuge was established.

The refuge protects one of the highest quality old-growth bottomland hardwood forests remaining in the southeastern United States, the bottomlands along Harrison Bayou. Along the refuge shoreline of Caddo Lake are wetlands that are designated under international treaty as "Wetlands of International Significance" under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

Today the refuge’s forests and wetlands have been set aside for the benefit of wildlife and are home to a diversity of wildlife and plant species that can be found on the refuge for all or part of the year. Free of charge, visitors can enjoy wildlife watching, hunting, hiking, biking, an auto-tour route and horseback riding.