Hours of engine drone come to a halt and the door opens to a rush of startling silence. Curiosity sharpens my eyes into the soft layers of gray Spanish moss dripping and lifting in the air’s breath like spirits to a slow waltz. I step into the rich biotic air of Caddo Lake, and despite the stillness, a flood of questions emerge, leading me on a quest to create a visual framework for understanding this place.
Is man agile enough to remain harmonious with nature, himself, and rectify his mistakes?
The sacred lake’s namesake, the lithe kadohadacho people were known to be friendly and efficient farmers and hunters, who built tall conical dwellings and ceremonial earth mounds. A number of these mounds still exist. As European explorers and settlers moved into the region, so did their diseases, tendency for land disputes, false treaties, exploitation, and anti-Indian sentiment, which eventually drove the Caddo people westward and into the arid plains of Oklahoma. Ironically, the name Texas is derived from the Caddo word taysha, meaning friend.
A Cold War Era Ammunitions Plant
Along the southern shores of Caddo Lake sits an 8,500-acre National Wildlife Refuge, where migratory birds find sanctuary, wildlife thrives, and diverse plant species abound. Cold war remnants crumble in this forest. It’s a jolting and eerie sight. The Longhorn Ammunitions Plant was placed there thanks to a young and hungry Congressman named Lyndon B. Johnson at the start of WWII. Bombs and rockets made their way from the plant to Korea, Vietnam, and other Cold War destinations around the world. Fifty years’ worth of TNT in the soil and tributaries is being cleaned at this EPA Superfund site. 2015 marks twenty-five years towards the cleaning effort.
A New Invasion
Crossing the shoreline and into the dark and shallow iron-red water, thick mats of aquatic vegetation soon impede movement to a halt. It also impedes light, and therefore, life beyond its own. A distinguished ecosystem and a culture dependent on the lake are at risk.
Giant salvinia is an astonishingly fast-growing aquatic fern that was inadvertently introduced by the aquatic gardening trade. A desire for exotic vegetation in backyard ponds has lead to regional environmental nightmares.
Unlike the EPA cleaning TNT, the federal government is not set up to fight giant salvinia, and the erosion of Texas’s conservation budget under Rick Perry is leaving locals with few options and plenty of questions.
Caddo Lake exemplifies paradoxes of humankind; it is a place of profound peace, confrontation, reverence, and abuse.
With this project, I will create a visual framework to understand the complexities of Caddo Lake and the culture around the mystical waters.
Lance Rosenfield is seeking funding to further this project.