The Only Honest Lake in Texas

The sights on Caddo Lake — looming bald cypresses and gangly
blue herons — have inspired writers for years. As

Joe Nick Patoski of The Texas Observer quips
, ‘It’s
the only Texas lake with its own body of literature.’

Well aware of such tradition and beauty are the people who live
near Caddo Lake. In 1993, locals, with the help of Don Henley, the
ex-Eagles rock star who grew up in the region, rallied around the
newly founded Caddo Lake Institute. Henley and company successfully
lobbied to have the lake and its environs declared a National
Wildlife Refuge. For the northeast Texas swamp beleaguered by
logging, polluting, damming, and water siphoning, it was a
designation long over due.

It was a boon not just for conservationists; entrepreneurs
anticipate the refuge will eventually draw tourists and create
revenue for local businesses: ‘There’s hope the refuge’s
infrastructure will siphon off some of the $1.2 billion birding and
wildlife observation brings into the Texas economy annually, most
of it currently being spent along the coast and in the Rio Grande

Meanwhile, there are those who remain vehemently opposed to the
notion of the refuge, folks like retired General Vernon Lewis who
see Henley as the pooper of an anti-regulatory party: ‘He’s going
to go away someday, and when he goes away, this Caddo Lake
Institute is going to go away. This is a one-man show and it is all
about money and environmental power. They don’t give a shit about
Caddo Lake.’

Patoski, after hanging around the lake and interviewing those
involved, drew his own conclusion: ‘The lake people are now armed
with the knowledge needed for community stewardship of the lake and
its watershed, and to address issues such as mercury contamination,
minimal flows, how to work with the Texas Council on Environmental
Quality, water districts, and academics, and how to train local
people to protect their lake and wetlands.’
Archie Ingersoll

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The Only Honest Lake in Texas

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