This is the history of Johnson's Ranch and Caddo Lake according
to Dottie Carter. It's her story and she's sticking to it.
In 1811, the chief of the Caddo Indians living in the wetlands
of what is now known as Caddo Lake, had a vision that he
must move his people to higher ground. The ground shook
as the Native Americans quickly left the bayou that had
been home. The New Madrid earthquake opened the earth, forming
Caddo and her sister lake, Reelfoot, in Tennessee. The great
upheaval caused major wave action to move up river on the
Mississippi River, appearing as a backward flow on the mighty
river. Caddo remained mostly inaccessible until the mid
1800's when steamboats began to ply the tannic water, taking
travelers to Jefferson and returning to New Orleans with
loads of cotton. Finding the water level on the Big Cypress
to be "uncertain", the term "uncertain"
stuck and did and still does aptly describe the area. Outdoors,
men and women began to discover the plentiful game and fish
of what was then the only lake in Texas. The sportsman's
paradise had been discovered. On the shores of the lake,
cypress boats were built and camp houses began to appear.
Among the first was a camp called "Uncertain".
When the City of Uncertain was incorporated in 1962, the
name was not a difficult choice. The term, "uncertain"
had been associated with the area for almost a century.
When the paperwork for the incorporation was sent to Austin,
it was returned with a note that the founding fathers would
have to decide on a name for their new town before it could
The Uncertain city limit sign is stolen so frequently that
the Texas Highway Department balks at replacing it. You
can now get your own (Uncertain, TX, Population 150)
signs at Johnson's Ranch.
Johnson's Ranch Marina is believed to be the oldest
inland marina in Texas. Before the concept of reservoirs,
Caddo was the only lake in Texas. Johnson's Ranch celebrated
it's 100th year of continuous operation in 2008. In 1908,
two Johnson brothers came to Caddo Lake from Minnesota to
establish a button factory. They planned to use the lake
mussel shells for button material. When they found the local
shells too brittle for buttons, the brothers developed a
fishing camp. (Why the brothers called the property a "ranch"
remains a mystery). In the 40s, the Mauthe family purchased
the property and ran the marina for over 60 years.
If the marina could talk, she would tell stories of the
Caddo Lake pearling industry, when families moved out onto
the then exposed islands of Broad Lake to gather mussel
shells in hopes of finding greatly sought-after fresh water
pearls. The first offshore drilling for oil was done on
Caddo Lake. At times, the wells could be serviced by boats
and at times, by trucks. The in-between time is the reason
for the dam at Mooringsport, which gave Caddo a more consistent
level. Most of this activity was on the Louisiana side of
the lake, but the Texas side surely benefited from all the
In the days when Harrison County was "dry", and
Marion County, just across the bayou was "wet",
stilted "beer boats" sprang up across from Johnson's.
"Water taxis (row boats) were for hire at Johnson's
to take folks across Big Cypress Bayou for dining, dancing
and drinking a little beer.
Johnson's Ranch is presently being operated by Billy
and Dottie Carter, both lifetime residents of the Uncertain
area. The manager is Karen Holzman. Along with associate,
Leroy Jones, the Carters and Karen welcome you to visit
Johnson's Ranch and take advantage of the view and the breeze
that usually cools the large covered dock, or the warm comfort
of the indoor lounge on winter days. Enjoy refreshments
(beer, sodas and snacks) sold inside while meeting a lot
of local folks who use Johnson's Ranch as a gathering place.
Learn more about the Carters and their guesthouses and fishing
and touring at www.spatterdock.com