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History of Johnson's Ranch Marina


This is the history of Johnson's Ranch and Caddo Lake according to Billy Carter. It's his story and he'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 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 "Uncertain."


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 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 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 owned and operated by BILLY CARTER, lifetime resident of CADDO LAKE. He welcomes you to visit the RANCH and take advantage of the view and the breeze that cools the large covered dock, or the warm comfort of the indoor camp on winter days. Enjoy refreshments (beer, sodas, snacks and grab-and-go food) served inside.

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 Marina

For Sale - "City of Uncertain, Pop. 93"signs. Call, email or come by Johnson's Ranch


Johnson's Ranch
3151 E. Cypress Dr.
Uncertain, TX 75661



Email: billy@johnsonsranch.net

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Johnson's Ranch Marina
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