Arriving at Lake Charlotte, the water on the Lake was like glass and the shadows in the Cypress swamp were enticing. The sounds of the wildlife easing into the morning was rising with the sun. The Cypress Wonderland is part of the Wallisville Project in the northwest part of Chambers County and is the largest cypress swamp on the Texas coast.
Many kayaking and paddling trips are executed in this beautiful junction of Trinity River, area fresh water lakes and swamps and bayous – among others, the Sierra Club has several annual outings here. As a novice to the growing sport of paddling, this was to be my introduction to paddling in open water and to the Cypress swamp area on the far side of this unique Lake.
There are a couple of “put in” locations the paddling guides and groups like to use to enter the Lake and Cypress Wonderland, and my friends from Anahuac Paddling in Chambers County, and I had decided for our short three hour intro – we would use the scenic Cedar Hill Park location. I enjoy the diversification at this entrance – the Chambers County Park has camping, restrooms, hiking trails and one may fish, bird or have a great time with a camera. The location is quite historic as well – imagine large steamboats headed up river to Dallas, docked in Lake Charlotte in the 1800’s. The water is much lower now – and still great for recreation.
The wind had picked up a bit as we headed across the Lake, but as a novice paddler – I can tell you it was no challenge for me. My guides gave me a full instruction on safety, so I felt confident and found it easy to use my camera and my binoculars. The views from the lake were wonderful, and as we entered into the swamp areas – breathtaking.
We spent an a hour or more paddling around the tall trees and cypress knees of the swamp, and found we had a tendency to communicate in low tones and an almost reverent manner as we talked about the lure of the paddling in the Wallisville Project. The sight of the large Pileated Woodpecker landing nearby, movements in the shadows and turtles slipping into the dark waters added to the primeval setting, enticing “ahhs” from each of us. So mesmerized – we had to remind each other to use cameras.
An afternoon trip to the Smith Point Hawk Watch in time to get in a little birding was the only thing that made me want to leave the swamp and head back across Lake Charlotte. The good news is this incredible Wonderland is just a short trip from some of the largest communities in east Texas, and I knew I would be planning a longer trip into the Wild Side really soon.
Photo credits: Keith Godwin