Caddo Cross Lakes Important Bird Area (IBA) contains the Soda Lake Wildlife Management Area (WMA), Cross Lake, and Caddo Lake. The IBA is comprised of over 260,000 acres of evergreen forests, deciduous forests, open waters, and woody wetlands.
Soda Lake WMA is managed primarily as a refuge for migrant waterfowl and songbirds. A cooperative partnership between the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Ducks Unlimited, and Caddo Levee District maintain a series of moist soil impoundments providing excellent habitat for waterfowl and other birds.
Cross Lake is a waterway that provides the water supply for the City of Shreveport. Cross Lake supports multiple access sites, several commercial facilities, and two public parks.
Caddo Lake is a wetland and lake area located on the border between Texas and Louisiana in northern Harrison County, southern Marion County, and western Caddo Parish. The lake, named after Native Americans called Caddo or Caddoans, is one of the few internationally protected wetlands in the United States under the Ramsar treaty designating Wetlands of International Importance. It is also the largest natural fresh water lake in the south at 25,400 acre and contains one of the largest cypress forests in the world. In 2003, forty-four of Caddo Lake's native species were endangered, threatened or rare.
This IBA is an excellent site to see birds with Caddo Lake claiming 216 species alone. This site is most famous for its housing of waterfowl during the winter; in fact, up to 60,000 Canvasback come to the location during the season. Ruddy Duck, Scaup, Gadwall and Blue-winged Teal are also present. Rookeries in both Caddo and Cross lakes see nesting Tricolored and Little Blue Heron, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, and Wood Stork. Other waterbirds include Ring-billed, Franklin, and Herring Gulls. Raptors include Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon. Healthy populations of Swainson?s Warbler are present. High densities of breeding Prothonotary and Kentucky Warblers may be found in the IBA. Other warblers include Prairie and Hooded Warblers. Wood Thrush, also present on the IBA, is of great concern as their numbers are declining rapidly. American White Pelican have begun to winter here. Lately, Anhingas have been spotted here as they appear to be spreading into more northern regions, perhaps due to global warming. As many as twenty Sprague?s Pipit, currently considered vulnerable, have been seen wintering within the IBA.
This area has suffered pollution from a number of sources including oil drilling and industrial use. Caddo Lake is currently suffering from a noxious weed that doubles in size every two to four days called Giant Salvinia. The non indigenous aquatic water fern was accidentally introduced by boaters and rapidly kills off life below the surface. It can also make waters impassable for recreational boaters.
Although some land in this IBA is privately owned, Soda Lake WMA, Cross Lake, and Caddo Lake are all owned and managed by the state of Louisiana. The land along the lake?s shores has a number of owners, including the state, a hunting club, and private landowners.
This IBA is composed of a forested wetland, mixed bottomland hardwood forests, and lake habitat. The whole IBA lies above sub-surface Haynesville shale. Many of the loblolly pine plantations are managed and cut in fairly regular intervals by owners or managers such as hunting clubs. Some of the forested areas are flooded during late winter and spring, during which the lower elevation habitat, generally broken woodland, is inundated with water. The overstory of these lower elevations contains trees such as willow, cottonwood, ash, hackberry, and oaks. Its understory, sparse as a result of the flooding, has plants such as French mulberry, buckeye, poison ivy, crossvine, small hawthorn species, rattan, peppervine, dewberry, and sawbriars. Open areas support several species of grasses. On the east end of Cross Lake there is a residential area, with most of the yards containing exotics and a cutover of mixed hardwood pine. A beech and hickory forest created by a hunting club attracts Swainson?s Warbler.
The bayous and lakes support diverse, older forests with some bald cypress estimated to be between 100 and 130 years old. Twelve Mile Bayou, which contains two state-rare plants? American alumroot and lowland brittle fern, connects Caddo Lake and Cross Lake. Both of the lakes are shallow, with Cross Lake?s maximum depth being only 12 feet. Upland plant communities around their waters consist of shortleaf pine, oak, and hickory. Other dominant species include sweetgum, white pine, black willow, cherrybark, shumard, and cow oak. Small understory oaks are also present.
Public uses for this site include recreational and commercial fishing, canoeing, guided lake tours, both motor home and primitive camping, and boating. Caddo Lake Institute leads conservation efforts and educational programs for Caddo Lake. Two public parks near Cross Lake are also open to the public. A yacht club allows for pleasure boating on Cross Lake. There is also a hunters? club that manages for duck and deer hunting. There is timber management for loblolly pine. This IBA, site of the first water drilling platform that is still in use, also has other oil management. Agriculture with crops such as corn, bean, soybeans, hay, and some cotton, is another use of the land. Cattle grazing also occurs within the IBA.