Summer at the Lake
Toledo Bend’s list of attractions grows beyond its reputation for fishing, boating and golfing
It’s easy promoting a region as bountiful to anglers as Toledo Bend, one of the top bass fishing lakes in the country. This year, however, Georgia Craven was besides herself, for the largest man-made body of water in the South and the fifth largest man-made reservoir in the United States is exploding with new attractions.
“I’m the happiest person on the planet,” said Craven, executive director of the Sabine Parish Tourist & Recreation Commission.
From the opening of a new water park to renovations and additions at two state parks and Cypress Bend Resort, there are plenty of reasons to visit Toledo Bend this summer.
Wildwood Resort has been attracting visitors to its expansive property filled with cabins, stocked fishing ponds, fishing pier and three swimming pools, to name a few of its amenities, but now there’s one more reason to visit. The owners opened Toledo Bend Family Adventure Park on Memorial Day Weekend, a water park featuring four slides, lazy river, splash pads, pools, a concession stand and an 18-hole mini golf course.
Visitors may stay in the cabins — or Wildwood’s new RV park — across the street from the water park and retreat to the original property for bird watching, fishing, stargazing around the fire pit or playing sports such as basketball. Wildwood’s a one-stop fun arena.
Golfers flock to Cypress Bend Resort for its golf course weaving over rare Louisiana hills, some veering close to the lake for beautiful vistas — with many times a bald eagle flying by. The course dates back 25 years, so it needed renovation, Craven said. The resort staff has been busy remaking holes, thinning out forests for better lake views and renovating the club house. The new and improved course will open this fall.
“It is going to be by far the best golf course in the state,” Crave said. “The views from every hole is spectacular. It’s a golfer’s dream.”
The resort also renovated the pool and spa and will soon update its guest rooms, she added.
Live the Dream
Toledo Bend hosts numerous fishing tournaments every year, including the Bassmaster Open Series, which returned in April after a pandemic hiatus. The Louisiana lake has hosted B.A.S.S. Master Open 17 times and was the first lake to rank No. 1 two years in a row on Bassmaster magazine’s 100 Best Bass Lakes list. So, we’re talking wicked good fishing. As of April, when we last spoke to Craven, 40 lunkers (large-scale bass) had been pulled from the lake.
“We have been on fire this year for fishing,” she said.
The lake’s special for fishing because when they dammed the Sabine River in the mid-20th century, the lake filled up quicker than engineers imagined, leaving live trees standing in the water. Today, those stumps within Toledo Bend may be dangerous to boaters but they prove great for fishing. Look for largemouth bass, bream, crappie (or as we say in Louisiana sac-au-lait), catfish and white and striped bass.
Folks at Living the Dream know the lake well and will prove it with their guided fishing services, one of many along the lake. But now, they have opened a marina on the Texas Highway where they not only launch their services, but visitors may rent pontoons and jet skis or enjoy a meal and drink while watching the sun set over Texas.
What Else is New
Close to Toledo Bend are the towns of Many and Zwolle, the latter known for its incredible tamales and the annual tamale festival in the fall. Many recently opened a new museum in its renovated train depot, showcasing local artwork on one side and history of No Man’s Land on the other. When the United States purchased Louisiana from France, its neighbor Spain (before it was Texas) disputed the boundary lines on its eastern border. Until map lines could be negotiated, the region surrounding the Sabine River held no governing body, hence the name No Man’s Land. That all changed with the 1819 Adams-Onis Treaty establishing the Sabine River as the boundary between Spain and the United States.
There are three state parks in the region: North Toledo Bend State Park near Zwolle and South Toledo Bend State Park at the lake’s south end and Fort Jessup State Historical Site heading toward Natchitoches. Both lakeside state parks have received facelifts over the past two years, including the thinning out of forests to bring in glamping tents, more hiking trails and the addition of a championship disc course in North Toledo Bend State Park. The state parks are also part of Louisiana’s Birding Trails for the lake attracts rare and migratory species and is home to several bald eagle nests.