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On October 19, 2000, the Director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service approved the establishment of the Caddo Lake National Wildlife Refuge on portions of the approximately 8,500-acre Longhorn Army Ammunition Plant in Harrison County, Texas. The refuge was established for the purpose of migratory bird and other fish and wildlife management, conservation, and protection.

Prior to being obtained by the U.S. Army in 1941, the area now managed by the refuge was home to a great mix of early Texans and a variety of uses. Trappers and fishermen camped along Caddo Lake's shoreline on lands now inside the refuge. Timber operators and cotton plantations took advantage of this site's abundant forests and rich, river loam soil.

Before these pioneer settlers arrived during the days of the Texas Republic, the site of the refuge was a part of the Caddo Indian territory. The Caddos were a powerful confederacy that dominated the Red River and Big Cypress wetlands and their skills in agriculture, pottery, and diplomacy were unsurpassed by their peers.

Texas got its name from the Caddo Indian word "tay-shas," meaning "friend" or "ally." Not far from the present day Caddo Lake NWR, 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."

The refuge is designed to protect one of the highest quality old-growth bottomland hardwood forests in the southeastern United States. This bottomland lies along Harrison Bayou. Along the refuge shoreline of Caddo Lake are wetlands that are designated under international treaty as "Wetlands of International Significance." Portions of the refuge and Caddo Lake constitute one of only 25 such areas in the United States recognized by this treaty, known as the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

The forests and wetlands associated with the refuge are home to 224 species of birds, 22 species of amphibians, 46 species of reptiles, and 93 species of fish.

Hiking, biking, and automobile tours are available to the public. Equestrian use of the wildlife observation trail is also available on a special use basis.

In contrast to the more arid and thinly wooded areas that characterize much of the rest of Texas, the Caddo Lake NWR is one of the richest examples still in existence of the lush and abundant Piney Woods Belt where rainfall is abundant and rivers and bayous twist through forests teeming with wildlife and a great diversity of aquatic and terrestrial plant specimens.