Part VI: Woody to Water – The Chronology of Caney Lake

NOTE: Today most people only know that Caney Creek Reservoir and Caney Lake State Park is considered one of the jewels of Sportsman’s Paradise, as the state is called. Few remember the countless trials, tribulations, pitfalls and roadblocks that had to be overcome or the role that Woody McDonald played in changing the woods into water. This week – Hubba Bubba!

Finally, it looked like all the I’s had been dotted and T’s crossed and the construction of the lake was moving along at a good pace. While it had taken a nearly a decade to get to that point the one thing that the project had always seemed to have going for it was that the political powers in Baton Rouge were generally on board with getting the lake completed.

One of the main cogs of the governmental machine that powered the process was State Representative, E.L “Bubba” Henry. The Jonesboro resident had been a key figure in getting things accomplished since day one. When Woody McDonald first pondered the idea of building the lake, Henry was one of the first people he talked to.

If McDonald is considered he “Father of Caney Lake,” then Bubba would be the favorite son.

“Bubba was very instrumental in Caney Lake getting built,” reflected McDonald. “It probably would have never gotten done were it not for the years of work he put into it.”

Whether by design or just plain luck, it seemed that Bubba was always in the right place at the right time every step of the way.

“Before he got elected as State Representative, Bubba was heavily involved with the state Public Works Department and held a lot of influence with them,” said McDonald. “He played a big role in getting the plans and engineering pushed through.”

In 1968 Henry was elected as the Louisiana State Representative from District 13 that covered Jackson, Bienville and Ouachita Parishes. Over the next four years no one in the state had their star rise in the political arena of Baton Rouge as high as Bubba, except for one.

That was Edwin Edwards, who in 1972 was elected as Governor of the state. Edwards and Bubba was tight as bosom buddies in those days, even to the point of Edwards playing a large role in Bubba being chosen as Speaker of the House through his strong endorsement. 

There couldn’t have been a better person to lead the voice in Baton Rouge for the completion of the lake than Bubba, now commanding in the third most powerful seat in Louisiana politics. That is until the summer of 1976. Suddenly the tremendous asset became a huge liability.

It really wasn’t Bubba’s fault. More so it was simply a case of the two “Alpha dogs” unable to share the limelight. Soon Edwards and Henry begin distancing themselves from each other. During the regular legislative session that summer the fued reached a boiling point when Henry refusal to back some of the Edwards administration spending programs.

That set the stage for a no-holds-barred political war between the two camps that at times got downright nasty. The battleground – Caney Lake!

Next Week – Shots are fired!

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