Parking: South Toledo Bend State
Louisiana State Parks are fantastic. They don’t have a lot of ridiculous extra fees, the rates are cheap, but the parks are well-maintained and lovely. This is our third one, and I will miss them. Not only did the sites here have wooden decks and separate tent sites, but they also had boat docks at the RV sites.
On the day we arrived, there was only one other guest at the park, and it was heaven for a few days, but since Monday was a holiday, the weekend turned into a circus.
This was one of the cleanest places we’ve been – on the weekend, they must have cleaned the bathrooms four times per day – of course, the downside was that they needed to be cleaned four times per day because some folk are filthy pigs.
Toledo Bend is an interesting lake. It’s the fifth largest man-made lake in the US, and it’s the largest to not take any federal funds. It was a joint venture between TX and LA. The area regularly experienced severe flooding, so it was a good site for a dam. The charts still show the old farm houses, schools, and ponds that used to be in the valley.
When I first looked at a chart of the lake, I saw a bunch of “roads” that went N/S along the TX and LA shores and that E/W across the lake. I’m very familiar with shipping lanes and channels, but those didn’t seem necessary on this lake – it’s a dammed lake with no locks, so there is no commercial traffic, and the lake is about 40′ deep and several miles wide so channels across the lake seemed particularly odd.
Once you are out of the inlet with the boat launch, the reason for the roads becomes apparent – none of the trees were cut down before the valley was flooded, and the lake is essentially one giant navigation hazard. The only places where there are no trees are where there were rivers and actual roads.
The roads are well-marked once outside the inlet, but it’s still disconcerting to see the tops of trees sticking out as much as 6′ above the water line just a few feet outside the road. If I ever have to build a pier, I want to use wood from whatever these trees are – nearly 50 years underwater and still standing strong.
For some odd reason, the road markers do not continue into the inlet, so if you have found this page because you were searching for information on boating Toledo Bend Lake, here’s what you do. After launching and heading out toward the main body of the lake, stay in the middle of the inlet until you can make a very wide right turn around the point and go between the island and the mainland. At the level the lake was when we were there (about 2′ down), there is a section at the narrowest area of the pass where we only had about 6″ of water under the keel (had to keep the rudder kicked up), so go slowly. The really shallow part only lasts a few dozen yards. Once it’s a few feet deep, the road markers start up, and it quickly gets to more than 40′ deep.
Despite the road being as narrow as 50′, the sailing was pretty good. The winds were from the south which meant our return trips were directly into the wind. Since the channels aren’t wide enough to tack, we did have to motor back. We did one trip up north along the LA coast and back, and we did another where we did a loop across E/W 2 into TX, up the S TX road, and back into LA over E/W 4. Everyone else was in small fishing boats, so we were an usual site.