September 26th marks a decade since Caddo Lake National Wildlife Refuge opened

This Thursday, from 3:00-6:00, volunteers will be on hand at the Visitor’s Center at the Caddo Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Zeugner Dr, Karnack, TX 75661, to share history of the refuge, and help direct them to interesting hikes, providing just cold water and interpretation/welcoming.

Background: September 26th marks a decade that the Caddo Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Karnack, Texas, has been open to the public.  Many elected officials at the local, state and federal level, as well as employees of their agencies, alongside local nonprofits and local people, all had a hand in the journey to opening this resource to the public.  In 1997 the decommissioning of the Longhorn Army Ammunition Plant allowed the Caddo Lake Institute to lease significant lands at the plant to prove the ecological value of the site.  That resulted in an agreement for the transfer of ownership from the U.S. Army to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, creating the overlay Caddo Lake National Wildlife Refuge on October 19, 2000. The plant has been gradually conveyed to USFWS as as clean-up of the contamination of the areas of the lands were used by the Army of manufacturing explosives, and other munitions are completed. 

The Refuge Officially opened to the public on September 26th, 2009.  Open dawn to dusk, the public has access to:  a 6 mile auto tour route, and many more miles of road suitable for cycling; 6 hiking trails providing over 10 miles of trail; 9 miles of horseback trails; multiple bird blinds; the Visitor Center; Starr Ranch Pavillion; and a boat ramp for canoes and kayaks.  The Refuge also hosts white-tailed deer hunts and feral hog hunts. Included are opportunities for youths and hunters with disabilities. 

The Refuge purpose is the management, conservation, and protection of migratory birds and other fish and wildlife.  This bottomland hardwood forest ecosystem provides essential habitat for a diversity of migratory and resident wildlife species in Texas.   Caddo Lake NWR contains some of the best examples of mature flooded bald cypress forest in the United States and includes cypress trees nearly 400 years old.  The Caddo Lake wetlands also support one of the most diverse plant communities in Texas.    The wetlands of Caddo Lake are very important to migratory bird species within the Central Flyway.  The area supports one of the highest breeding populations of wood ducks, prothonotary warblers, and other birds in the United States.  With recent reports showing a steep decline in our nation’s birds, this key habitat is even more crucial.  Fish and Wildlife Service Water right, resulting from the Refuge designation, now helps protect flows into the Lake and thus habitat for many fish, bird, and vegetation species, including the state threatened paddlefish.

For more about visiting the refuge: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/caddo_lake/.  For more about how to volunteer to help at the refuge:  http://caddofriends.com/ or the Texas Master Naturalists at https://txmn.org/cypress/.  For more about the cleanup at LHAAP: http://www.longhornaap.com/. For more about the Caddo Lake Institute: www.caddolakeinstitute.org

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