When people think of Louisiana, they don’t often think of the 20 state parks, the state forest, or the wildlife refuge-but they should. The parks, forests, and refuges in the state call themselves home to native species. They preserve a part of the area that would otherwise be forgotten and creates a safe haven for these things to exist. Below are the best parks and forests to visit to experience the part of Louisiana often forgotten.
Kisatchie National Forest is the only national forest in Louisiana. With its headquarters located in Pineville, the forest has over 40 recreational areas and over 100 miles for hiking. Visitors also find themselves picnicking, camping, hunting, horseback riding, or boating.
The forest is also home to two predominant roadless areas. Cunningham Brake and Saline Bayou are both areas designated to protect species native to the area. Cunningham Brake is a large wamp that protects flows into Kisatchie Bayou. Saline Bayou contains various forest types, each having different habitats. These areas were not given roads, as roads can damage forests, prairies, streams, and wetlands. They also do harm to native amphibians and reptiles that migrate to vernal pools.
Kisatchie National Forest lies throughout seven different parishes: Grant, Natchitoches, Winn, Rapides, Vernon, Claiborne, and Webster.
Grand Isle State Park is located right off the coast of Louisiana. The waters from the Gulf of Mexico created the beach. Grand Isle is the breakwater between the Gulf of Mexico and the channels that connect to the bayou tributaries of the Mississippi River. Lots of visitors come to the waters for fishing, swimming, or crabbing. Every July, many visit the beach for the Tarpon Rodeo, a fishing competition. The terrain also offers hiking or sunning for those looking for alternatives to water activities.
Over 280 species of fish call the Grand Isle State Park home. This is also an amazing place to see the Louisiana state bird- the Brown Pelican. For those looking for something a little different, there is a two-and-a-half mile nature trail in the park.
South Toledo Bend State Park is snugly located in the village of Anacoco, Louisiana. The park is located on several bluffs over and into the Toledo Bend Reservoir. For 2015 and 2016, Toledo Bend Reservoir was the nation’s number one bass fishing lake. In addition to bass fishing, visitors also enjoy hiking, cycling, and camping.
Housed in South Toledo Bend State Park are nesting grounds for bald eagles, which have been spotted in the area. The eagles feed from the endless supply of freshwater fish in the Reservoir. The park’s visitor center has an observation deck with a view of the reservoir lake and the islands nearby. Around the center is also a 3,000-foot surface nature trail.
South Toledo Bend is located six miles south of the former Hodges Gardens State Park, which closed in 2018. It is also not far from Natchitoches, Louisiana, which is the oldest settlement in the Louisiana Purchase.
For more Louisiana related articles, click here.