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Water enthusiasts find adventure on new Caddo Lake trails

By Richard Yeakley
Feb. 2, 2013 at 11 p.m.

KARNACK - More than 50 miles of paddling trails were officially opened Saturday at Caddo Lake and the Big Cyprus Bayou as park authorities and city leaders saw two years of work come to fruition.

"This is a great opportunity for eco-friendly tourism to expand in this area," said Harrison County Judge Hugh Taylor.

"It is low-cost, low-impact and high return. I expect to explore the trails."

The dedication ceremony opened 10 trails - with names such as Cathedral, Hell's Half Acre, Old Folks Playground and Turtle Shell - adding to the 38 trails already recognized by Texas Parks and Wildlife across the state, for kayak and canoe enthusiasts to enjoy.

The trails are marked so a person using the path will be able to maintain the trail, but avoid detracting from the natural environment.

Taylor said, growing up near the Big Cyprus Bayou, he understands how important the trails are for those who did not grow up near the swamp land and could easily become lost.

"Hopefully, it will draw people to enjoy this area that would not otherwise have come," Taylor said.

Shelly Plante, the nature tourism manager for Texas Parks and Wildlife, said she came to East Texas early in her career and always wanted to return and establish trails in and around Caddo Lake.

"Every time I would be in this area, I would tell people about our paddling trail program," Plante said.

"When they called me to come up, I was very excited, but knew there would also be challenges; these are our first trails on a swamp."

Geraldine Mauthe, director of visitor services for the Marshall Convention and Visitors Bureau, also offered her hopes that eco-tourism and the trails would draw people into Harrison County.

Many such enthusiasts couldn't wait to get their boats on the water, casting off as soon as Saturday's event had finished.

A handful of members of the Bayou Chapter of the Ozark Society from Shreveport drove almost 50 miles to test the trails immediately after their dedication.

Gary and Jenny Hackman, who have helped map water-way trails in Louisiana, said they understand the value of a well-marked paddling trail and would make their way to the Big Cyprus Bayou in the future to try each of the 10 new trails.

"It really makes a difference," Gary Hackman said. "It's exciting to see the new trails."

The Hackmans brought a canoe, although other members of the Bayou Chapter of the Ozark Society from Shreveport brought kayaks to test the trails.

Toni Spitale and her friend, Lori Haygood, said they enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, bicycling and paddling.

"It's a good thing for a family to do. They can get out and see the wetlands," Spitale said.



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