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Caney Lakes Recreation Area: Map

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Picnic sites at Lower Caney Lake


Wooded road to Upper Caney Lake


Low water level at Lower Caney Lake




Not to be confused with another Caney Lake at Jimmie Davis State Park southwest of Chathammarker in Jackson Parishmarker, Louisianamarker

Caney Lakes Recreation Area is located in the Kisatchie National Forestmarker north of Mindenmarker in Webster Parishmarker in northwestern Louisianamarker. Often uncrowded, the park offers opportunities for bicycling, hiking, picnicking, camping, swimming, boating, water skiing, fishing, and hunting. A triathlon is held annually in August. Surrounded by wooded hills, the shoreline is easily accessed, and the landscape and water are scenic.

There are two lakes: Upper Caney and Lower Caney, the larger and more visited unit closer to the main entrance. The Sugar Cane National Recreation Trail winds its way about Lower Caney. The trail is named for the sugar cane that once grew in the area, which also produced cotton. The lakes total 350 acres (150 hectares). Land for the lakes was acquired in 1934 and 1935 through the Great Depression-era Resettlement Administration. The site for the lakes was chosen in a low area that contained the three tributaries: Caney Creek (which crosses the Lewisville Road), Cow Creek, and Butler Creek. The dredging of the lakes was undertaken by primitive methods, with trees leveled by cross-cut saws. Plow mules were used to remove the dirt. The soil was placed on dirt sleds as the mules slowly pulled away the debris.

Hugh Garland Dunn, Sr. (1900-1986), a planer mill operator, cut the timber used to build the twenty-five cabins and the bridges at the lakes. Dunn remained after the construction of the facilities, employed in maintenance by the United States Soil Conservation Service. By the time of his retirement in 1965, he was the lakes supervisor under the United States Forest Service.

Having first been run by the SCS, the lakes opened in 1938, and the Webster Parish Farm Bureau held a picnic there, one of the first events inside the grounds. In 1958, the Webster Parish Police Jury, under its president Leland G. Mims, proposed that a "permanent Forest Service operation" be established for Caney Lakes. Therefore, in 1959, the lakes came under Forest Service operation for the first time. Julius C. Salmon (1898-1970) was the concessionaire from the opening of the lakes until the late 1950s. He handled the renting of the cabins, paddle boats, and swimming access. Salmon and his wife, Ruby W. Salmon (1904-1968), a teacher at E.S. Richardson Elementary School in Minden, lived in a house at the lake until the Forest Service assumed management.

In 1952, a Boy Scouts of America facility, Camp Yatasi, was opened at Caney Lake, and Governor-elect Robert F. Kennon, a Webster Parish native, spoke at the formal dedication. The name "Yatasi" was chosen in a contest. The camp, still in operation, initially cost $75,000.Various churches also operate youth camps at the lakes.

In 2009, Caney Lakes and neighboring Lake Bistineau were again engulfed by the non-native Giant Salvinia fern, which chokes up the water and reduces its level. The state has struggled to find a solution to the problem.

Fees are assessed by the Forest Service under the United States Department of Agriculturemarker. Day-use rates are $3 per vehicle, and additional fees are levied for camping. The entrance is a self-service operation.

References

  1. Webster Parish Police Jury, "The Depression Era", Respect for the Past, Confidence in the Future: Webster Parish Centennial, 1971, unnumbered pages
  2. Statement of William Thurston "Bill" Dunn (born 1931), son of Hugh G. Dunn, Sr., Minden, Louisiana, September 4, 2009
  3. Minden Herald, July 29, 1938
  4. "Caney Lake May Remain Under U.S. Forest Service", Minden Press, May 12, 1958, p. 1
  5. "Caney Lake Scout Camp dedicated", Shreveport Journal, May 4, 1952



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