In 2018 I will feature a random (yet alphabetical) selection of photos I have taken from my nearly 20 years of back roads travel in the United States and Canada. I may even throw in a few random shots from other trips to Japan, Mexico and the Philippines. My theme is called America’s Back Roads: A Grab Bag of Places in Pictures.
Union Pacific Railroad Museum – Council Bluffs, Iowa
If you like what you see, you may want to check out my book: Less Beaten Paths of America: Unique Town Names, available on Amazon. My second book, Less Beaten Paths of America: Quirky and Offbeat Roadside Attractions, will be available in late April or early May 2018. Click on the photo below for more details or to get a copy of the book.
It was a few years ago when I first visited Uncertain, TX (You can see my March 2012 Post here.). As a matter fact, it was on a cold day in February 2012 when I stopped by to see it for my first time. The real draw for me initially, was the name of the town, but the bigger draw ended up being the beautiful swamp-like setting of Caddo Lake.
This past weekend (Feb. 10, 2017) I had an opportunity again to visit this beautiful setting, this time with my daughter and her three children. Unlike my visit to Uncertain before, we had bigger sights set on seeing Caddo Lake and some of the swamp.
Upon arrival, we noticed that there was a group of people in a boat taking a tour of the lake and that looked very appealing. We continued driving around until we got to the main dock area and the tour had just arrived back and we were able to talk to the guy that ran the tour on the boat, Aaron Applebaum (see more at on their Facebook Page.).
Now, I am not one that usually will spend $25 per adult for any kind of thing as I consider that to be fairly expensive. But the opportunity to take a ride into the swamp on a boat and see the beauty of the swamp, birds in their natural habitat and to hear some of the history, coupled with my daughter wishing they could do it was a little bit too much and so we decided to pitch in and we took a boat ride into Caddo Lake with Aaron…just my daughter, my three grandkids and me. This is one of those instances where it was well worth it!
Our guide and boat driver Aaron grew up in this area and currently resides in Uncertain. His father was also a boat guide on the lake for many many years and so he knows the lake very well. Not only was he informative, he was also courteous, and fun. There was one spot where he even let the three young children drive the boat in the lake. And that without him touching the steering wheel!!
Eerie Sunshine through the trees
Honestly, the views from the shore are pretty impressive, but once you are in the midst of the lake and floating through the various bayous and channels amidst the bald cypress trees, there is nothing that can express the awe and intrigue.
This lake, Caddo Lake, is the largest naturally formed lake in the state of Texas. Scientists believe the lake formed when floodwater, blocked by massive log jams on the Red River, backed up into the Cypress Bayou watershed. Caddo Lake was artificially dammed in the early 1900s, when oil was found, and for flood control in 1914. A new dam replaced the old one in 1971.
The lake covers about 26,810 acres of cypress swamp, depending on rainfall. According to the Caddo Lake State Park Website, the lake’s average depth is 8 to 10 feet, while the deep water in the bayou averages about 20 feet. Aaron tells us that much of the lake only has a depth of around 4 to 5 feet.
The lake has its own “roadway” with marked signs that guide and direct those taking their boats and pontoons through the lake. These are areas where a dredge has cleared all of the stumps so there is room for the boats to pass and not scrape bottom. Having been on the lake for many years, Aaron knows the route very well and was able to traverses without any problems whatsoever.
In terms of seeing wildlife, February is probably not the best time to go see the lake. We were fortunate enough to see two or three blue herons, a couple of egrets, some turkey vultures and even caught a glimpse of a cormorant, which they call water turkey in the region.
Apparently, in the summertime, there are opportunities to catch glimpses of alligators and other wildlife on these boat tours. But the benefit of our trip in February, was low humidity, cooler temperatures and no mosquitoes! Doing without those skeeters was probably the best part of the tour (besides the expert guiding by Aaron.)
We learned during the tour that the famous singer Don Henley, of the Eagles, owns a house on the lake and we got to see that. Apparently it’s been used for a couple of music videos. Henley is originally from the area and actually caught his first fish in Caddo Lake while a youth. He loves the lake and the natural habitat in the area and has provided funding to help conserve the lake. The Caddo Lake Institute (CLI) is a non-profit scientific and educational organization founded in 1992 by Henley with the mission of protecting the ecological, cultural and economic integrity of Caddo Lake, its associated wetlands and watershed.
The village of Uncertain also has a number of little resort cabins that can be rented and one can drive around and see all of them. Many of them have themes. One section had four cabins all with Moon in the name. Others had frogs in the name. But they are all very unique and would be a fun place to stay for a week sometime.
Overall, this was a wonderful adventure for all of us. Thanks to Aaron for the tour and thanks to all of the residents of Uncertain that make this place a worthy destination. you can be certain of a good time in Uncertain!!
During the month of April I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge has each blogger select a theme and then do a post thematically from A to Z during each day of April , except Sundays. My blog is number 1337 out of 1670 participating blogs. This year my A to Z posts will take you across the back roads of America to many unique towns. To see what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016
The U Towns
There are not many towns in the country that begin with the letter U, but I have a couple of good ones here, especially the first one — Uncertain, Texas. Though their website calls them a “city,” it is really not much more than a small community of about 150 people that live along the shores of Caddo Lake. Caddo Lake is stretched across the Texas-Louisiana border and is Texas’ only naturally formed lake and covers 32,700 acres of a maze of channels, meandering bayous, and sloughs within thousands of acres of Spanish moss draped bald cypress. Though out of the way, it was certainly worth the drive. Check out my blog post from my February 2010 visit to Uncertain and a few other places HERE.
When we visited our son in 2015 to see our new grandson, we took a trip from the Hartford area south to Mystic, CT (See my M Towns post). Along the way, we stopped in the small town of Uncasville on CT Hwy 32. It is not really a touristy place, but we were in search of dinosaurs..namely Wells Dinosaur Haven. This is actually a person’s house with a huge backyard full of self-sculpted dinosaurs. The brainchild and creation of Jeff Wells, this unique “haven” got its start in 1981. He has well over 30 dinosaurs, including a life-size T-Rex, most of which are made from welded metal fabrication. Some are pretty realistic!! (See a detailed writeup about Jeff Wells on Roadside America.) You can read about our trip to Uncasville and Mystic in my 2015 post HERE.
Upper Lake, California
Also, in 2015, I took a trip to California, which I have mentioned in previous posts (I mentioned this same trip in my N Towns post for Nice, CA and my S Towns post for Santa Rosa). Located on California Highway 20, it is a beautiful little drive. CA 20 is dotted with many small lakes and a number of scenic views. It is MY KIND of back road highway, with a variety of things to see along the way. Lots of beautiful scenery and vistas on this drive. Upper Lake, is a rustic little place nestled in the upper reaches of Clear Lake. The town of Upper Lake is the gateway to the Mendocino National Forest and is a fun little town. In the middle of town sits an old hotel and also a quaint little outdoor saloon/eatery. The Tallman Hotel was built in the 1890s and is now a 17 room luxury hotel/bed and breakfast place. It fits in nicely with the rustic, old west style of the town. You can see my full trip report HERE.
Ukiah, California (Honorable Mention)
I have now been to three towns that also are names of Doobie Brothers songs. The other two are Blackwater, MO and China Grove, TX. Yes, I collect (and visit) town names from songs. Ukiah is on US Highway 101 and there are many farmer’s stands along the road. We hit a Strawberry Stand along the way. I think we stopped at Saechao Strawberry farm, on the Redwood Highway, another name for this portion of US Hwy 101. These strawberries were AMAZING!!
Upton, Kentucky (Honorable Mention)
Finally, on a back road trip to Elizabethtown for a concert in 2014, I set out to find Wonderland Road, which is in Upton, KY near Interstate 65 south of Louisville. I did find it, though most of the homes were trailers and old cabins. It really didn’t seem like a wonderland to me. But, it is deserving of a mention here.
Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.