A look at how Toledo Bend got its name

Toledo Bend Reservoir is named for a bend in the Sabine River near the dam. (Picture by Terry L. Jones)

At 185,000 acres, Toledo Bend Reservoir is the largest man-made lake in the South and a fishing mecca for countless bass, bream and crappie enthusiasts. During the planning stage in the 1950s, some people wanted to name the reservoir Lake Texana, in the tradition of Lake Texoma on the Texas-Oklahoma border.

Toledo Bend was chosen instead when the dam was constructed near Toledo, Texas, where the Sabine River makes a large bend.

Thus, the lake’s name, but why was the place called Toledo in the first place? There are at least four stories of Toledo’s origin, so just pick your favorite.

Some claim the area was first settled by immigrants from Ohio and they named it Toledo in honor of the city in their home state. Others say Toledo was the name of a local Indian chief.

Before the Ohio pioneers arrived, Texas was part of Spanish Mexico in the 1700s and settlers from there moved into East Texas and western Louisiana and named many of the area’s physical features. Toledo Bend may be one of those places and is possibly a reference to a similar large bend in the Rio Tagus near Toledo, Spain.

Then there’s General José Álvarez de Toledo y Dubois, who fought for Mexican independence from Spain in the early 1800s. On one occasion, Toledo led an army from Louisiana to invade Texas, but was defeated. Some believe Toledo Bend is so named because that is where he crossed the Sabine River.

Lakes Vernon and Anacoco

Less famous than Toledo Bend, but still good fishing spots, are nearby lakes Vernon and Anacoco.

The 4,200-acre Lake Vernon was created in 1963 and is named for Vernon Parish. The parish was formed in 1871 from parts of Sabine, Rapides and Natchitoches parishes and is named for George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon.

Both Lake Vernon and Lake Anacoco were formed by damming up Anacoco Bayou, which has an interesting history. Early maps use such varied spellings as “Lianaucucu,” “Anacucu,” and “Yanakoka,” but its origin probably lies in the Spanish term Llano cuco, or “raincrow plain.” Later, the French interpreted the name as “l’Anacoco,” and the Americans finally shortened it to Anacoco. Lake Anacoco covers 5,379 acres and was constructed in 1951.

Visitors to the South Toledo Bend State Park can enjoy fishing from the bank or a pier that spans an inlet. (Picture by Terry L. Jones)

Other area place names have also evolved. Take the 74,309-acre Peason Ridge WMA, for example. Peason is a melding of Peavy-Wilson, which was the name of a lumber company that began operations there in 1935.

When this popular WMA was created, it was comprised of land from Fort Polk and Kisatchie National Forest. In 2023, however, Fort Polk was renamed Fort Johnson, and the army now refers to Peason Ridge as Fort Johnson North. Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife & Fisheries followed suit and has renamed the wildlife management area Fort Johnson North WMA.

South Toledo Bend State Park

South Toledo Bend State Park is located at the southeastern corner of the reservoir, near the dam, and is a convenient location from which to explore the area.

Fishermen can launch boats from the park, use the fishing pier that stretches over one inlet, or cast from the bank. There is also a fish cleaning station.

The state park has RV pads with decks, camping sites and picnic tables to accommodate both day users and campers. Bike and hiking trails and even ATV trails enhance a visit to South Toledo Bend.

About Terry L. Jones 115 Articles
A native of Winn Parish, Terry L. Jones has enjoyed hunting and fishing North Louisiana’s woods and water for 50 years. He lives in West Monroe with his wife, Carol.