Lake Woodlands is a wonderful place to paddle. No power boats - only electric trolling motors allowed. Large enough lake without being too big - some wind, some waves. Still lots of it wild with nutria, beaver, nesting Great Blue Herons, and rumor has it, one medium alligator - but he was hit by a car in the Fall of 2000. The Lake has a concrete bulkhead shore and only two access points for the public.
To get there from Houston, head north on IH-45 to the Woodlands Parkway. Exit the turn right, then go over the freeway to the west. After several stoplights, you will see the lake on your right. "Tea Cup Island " and "the dragon" will be visible after you cross the dam. This area is South Shore Park and has no boat access, unless you park on the side of the road and carry everything in. Otherwise, continue to the next traffic light to East Panther Creek, and turn right. Continue north to the next stop sign. This is Lake Woodlands Drive, turn right. Continue east, towards the lake. The road will turn into North Shore Park. There you will find several docks and a boat ramp. I usually unload near the dock and drop my boat and gear off on the grass near the bulkhead shore, then park. When I am there in the evening there are often trailers launching boats, so I have gotten in the habit of dropping the kayak in the water off the shore, then stepping into the water, straddle the boat, and get in. Remember the park is open from sunrise to sunset. They will lock your vehicle in after dark.
If you like quiet nature paddles, go north under the bridge as far as you can go. The distance will vary depending on the down trees and the water level. Paddlers may have to "limbo" under and around trees leaning at a 45 degree or greater angles. You should make it past the concrete side channel on the left that leads to a flood control pond (shallow - inches deep) by the apartments. Just up stream from there you should hit the first of many log jams across the creek. There should still be enough room to turn around a 16 ft. canoe/kayak and retrace your steps - I mean paddles. Kayak paddling can be difficult here with the overhanging branches. Separating the paddle and paddling single blade canoe style will work. If the water level is high enough, you can just paddle over these jams and paddle almost to Gosling Road. Check out this USGS site (click here) and paddle way up stream if the water level is in the 7 ft range. Watch out for currents and strainers. Each time it floods these downed trees, leaning trees and log jams shift positions. Please paddle slowly and quietly and enjoy the wildlife.
One of the most special times to paddle, is after dark in the summer time, when the winds have died down and the lake is dead calm. The kayak just glides across the waters, barely making a ripple. The paddle, if moved carefully is silent moving in, though, and out, of the water. It is truly a magical time! That is until you pass over one of the big fish (carp?) just under the surface. They will really scare you as you go gliding over them. The only problem is that the vehicle has to be parked so far away and the long walk carrying the kayak.
From North Shore Park, it is 1 km paddle north to the Research Forest Drive bridge. 2 km paddle to South Shore Park. A 6 km paddle round trip. If you explore the quiet coves on the east side of the lake it is much longer. North Shore Park has restrooms and drinking water - bring your own "necessary paper". South Shore has a water fountain near Tea Cup Island. There are lots of coves on each side. The West side is mostly huge houses while the east side of the lake is commercial and mostly undeveloped. Great Blue Herons are here on their shore perches. They will croak at you if you chase them off. This winter an osprey and several immature bald eagle were seen.
Information supplied by Pete Cragg