From pristine lakes and magnolia forests, to the Gulf of Mexico’s sandy shores, Louisiana’s natural areas shine. While touring the “Pelican State” enjoy camping at Louisiana campgrounds and Louisiana RV resorts, which are ran by hospitable and kind southern friends. Special exhibits at state museums, themed concerts, films and a December reenactment of the historic signing, in New Orleans, are all on schedule for Louisiana’s 200th birthday festivities.
Northern Louisiana is known for its rivers, lakes, curving bayous, gentle hills and vast woodlands. Moreover, this part of the state is the home of the Upper Quachita National Wildlife Refuge near Sterlington. The centerpiece of this preserve is the Quachita River, which runs north to south through the center of the refuge, dividing its forests, swamps and waterways into two sections. Geese, ducks, bald eagles and migrating songbirds spend time at Quachita. Year-round fishing and seasonal hunting of deer, waterfowl and small game are permitted. Other typical refuge activities include trail hiking, wildlife watching and outdoor photography. A leisurely drive along River Road offers grand views of the Quachita River and surrounding woodlands, plus occasional glimpses of deer and local feathered species.
In Louisiana’s central region, cotton fields connect with wild rivers, bayous and prairies. Various districts of the Kisatchie National Forest, headquartered in Pineville, stretch across seven central and northern Louisiana parishes. There are lots of effective ways to experience Kisatchie’s wonders. RVers can hike, pedal a bike, paddle a canoe, ride a horse, fish, hunt, swim or drive an off-road vehicle (probably best to leave the RV on the pavement) through the forest’s 600,000-acre landscape, nearby their Louisiana campgrounds. Guests encounter a myriad of terrain – hardwood swamps, mossy cypress forests, bogs, bayou rapids, placid lakes and sandstone hills. And around each bend, there are surprises like orchids, pink azaleas and extraordinary, meat-eating plants. Watch your fingers.
Also in the Pelican State’s heartland, north of Ville Platte, is Chicot State Park, a favorite destination for anglers. Chicot boasts forests of hardwood, magnolia, cypress and tupelo trees and a designated “trophy bass” lake managed by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Visitors enjoy access to all things water-friendly, including a boathouse, launching ramps, watercraft rentals and large fishing piers. Lake Chicot holds plenty of feisty, largemouth bass, bluegill and red-eared sunfish. For guests who aren’t into angling, this pleasing park offers a big swimming pool, numerous cozy picnic facilities and nature trails for hikers, cyclists and backpackers. Plus, Louisiana RV camping resorts are conveniently positioned nearby.
Adjacent to Chicot is the Louisiana State Arboretum, the first such preserve in the South and the premier state-maintained arboretum in America. This botanic treasure covers more than 300 acres of naturally occurring vegetation, plus planned introductions of native botanic species. The arboretum’s terrain varies considerably, from flat turf on the shores of Chicot Lake to sharp slopes along hillside ridges. Many Louisiana plants are represented, from ancient beech trees and cowcumber magnolias to fancy ferns and crane fly orchids. For guests who’d like to take an in-depth look at the arboretum’s botanic secrets, there are trails and bridges to transport hikers to the park’s less traveled nooks and crannies.
In Louisiana’s southern section near Lake Charles, Creole Nature Trail Natural Scenic Byway slices through the wild country known as Louisiana’s Outback. This 180-mile auto/RV tour weaves through prairies, marshes and Gulf Coast beaches where butterflies, songbirds and buzzing mosquitoes share digs with crabs, shrimp and alligators. Because this byway cuts across the Sabine and Cameron Prairie national refuges as well as two major migratory bird routes – the Central and Mississippi Flyways – it’s an excellent viewing area for birders and wildlife observers.
Another southern attraction, just below New Orleans in Marrero, the Barataria Basin unit in Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve shelters some of North America’s finest estuary wetlands. Barataria’s live oak forests, cypress swamps and freshwater marshes are home to the likes of nine-banded armadillos, egrets, ibises, alligators and crawfish. Seasonal blooms of giant blue irises and yellow bur marigolds add bursts of color to Barataria Basin’s spellbinding landscape. Whether explored via hiking trails and boardwalks or from inside a gliding canoe, the Barataria Basin presents a memorable display of Louisiana’s incomparable delta.
On Louisiana’s Gulf Coast in Cajun Country, Grand Isle State Park in Grand Isle is one of America’s best getaways for saltwater fishing. Local waters are home to more than 280 varieties of fish including favorites like speckled trout, redfish and tarpon, the featured species of Grand Isle’s annual Tarpon Rodeo. Anglers can book a deep-sea charter, amble down the park’s lighted fishing pier, or hit the beach for promising surfcasting. Grand Isle is also a winning spot for swimmers and boaters. And for visitors who climb to the top of the park’s observation tower, the reward is a seagull’s view of the fabulous Gulf coastline.