This is the history of Johnson's Ranch and Caddo Lake according
to Billy Carter. It's his story and he's sticking
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 area 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 stream on the
Mississippi River, appearing as a backward flow on the mighty
river. Caddo remained mostly inaccessible until the early1800s
when steamboats began to ply the tannic water, taking travelers
to Jefferson and returning to New Orleans with loads of
cotton. The water level on the Big Cypress was always "uncertain."
The term "uncertain" stuck, and still aptly describes
the area. Outdoorsmen (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 banks of the lake boats of cypress were built and camp
houses began to appear. Among the first was a camp called
When the City of Uncertain was incorporated I 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 incorporation was sent to Austin,
with "Uncertain" written on the line that required
the name of the new town, the papers were returned with
a note that the founding fathers would have to decide on
a name for their new town before it could be incorporated.
The Uncertain city limit sign is stolen so frequently that
the Texas DOT balks at replacing it. You can get your own
"Uncertain, TX Pop. 93" signs at Johnson's
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 its 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 the
property into a fishing camp, "Johnson Brothers' Ranch."
(Why the brothers called the property a "ranch"
remains a mystery.) In the 1940s, the Mauthe family purchased
the property and operated the marina for over 60 years.
If the marina could talk, it would tell stories of the Caddo
lake pearling industry, when families moved out onto the
then exposed islands of Broad Lake (now called "Big
Lake") to gather mussel shells in hopes of finding
greatly sought- after freshwater pearls.
The first offshore drilling for oil was done of Caddo Lake.
Because of the fluctuating water, at times the wells could
be serviced by boat, and at other times, by trucks. The
in-between time is the reason for the dam at Mooringsport
that gave Caddo a more consistent level. Most of the oil
activity was on the Louisiana side of the lake, but the
Texas side also had some drilling. Parts of old derricks
can still be seen is areas of the lake.
In the days when Harrison Country was "dry" and
Marion County, just across the bayou allowed the sale of
alcohol, stilted "beer boats" sprang up across
from Johnson's. Water taxis (row boats) were for hire at
Johnson's Ranch to take folks across Big Cypress
Bayou for dining, dancing and drinking a little beer.
Johnson's Ranch is presently operated by Billy
Carter, lifetime resident of Caddo Lake. The
manager is Karen Holzman. Along with associates,
David Karrin and Chaz Warren they all 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) and good
food served from Karen's Kitchen, while meeting a
lot of local folks who use Johnson's Ranch as a gathering
Learn more about the Carters and their guesthouses and fishing
and touring at www.spatterdock.com
For Sale - Uncertain city limits signs,
"Uncertain Texas, Pop. 93" at Johnson's Ranch