They don’t call Louisiana “Sportsman’s Paradise” for nothing. Our state boasts of some of the best fishing, hiking and paddling in the United States. Louisiana also rests on the Mississippi Flyway, so this time of year thousands of colorful songbirds are migrating through the state — a birder’s paradise. There are dozens of state parks, historic sites and preservation areas located throughout Louisiana, offering residents and visitors alike a chance to get back to nature. Most state parks in Louisiana center around water sources — naturally since the state brims with bayous, river and wetlands — offering numerous opportunities for water sports. For those who love to get on the water, there are eight Louisiana Paddle Trails offering a variety of ecosystems, from Bayou Segnette State Park near New Orleans to Bayous Deloutre and Bartholomew stretching across the northern Louisiana boundary. So, what are you waiting for? The rest of the country may still be in winter, but spring always arrives early in Louisiana. Now’s the time to head to the great outdoors.
1. PARK YOURSELF HERE
There’s something for everyone at Louisiana State Parks. Modern cabins and paddle and hiking trails abound at Palmetto Island State Park, the newcomer to the state park system. Toledo Bend, the South’s largest manmade lake, has been named the No. 1 Bass Lake in the Nation by Bassmaster Magazine and hosted the Bassmaster Elite Series Tournament for five years. Grand Isle State Park overlooks the mighty Gulf of Mexico and Fontainebleau State Park rests on the edge of Lake Pontchartrain, only a hop, skip and a jump from New Orleans. Historic sites make great road trip adventures, too, from the plantation where John James Audubon painted to Los Adaes, the first capital of Texas, when Spain ruled. Civil War, Native American and colonial history abounds throughout the park system as well, so truly everyone will find something of interest.
2. LET’S GO TO THE BEACH
Ten state parks throughout Louisiana contain beaches, whether on the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico or facing a large water source such as Lake Pontchartrain. Plans are in the works by the Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism for all beach facilities to receive upgrades, set to be finished in time for warm weather. The parks where visitors may enjoy sand, sun and water are: Bogue Chitto in Franklinton, Cypremort Point in Franklin, Fontainebleau in Mandeville, Grand Isle in Grand Isle, Jimmie Davis in Chatham, Lake Bistineau in Doyline, Lake Bruin in St. Joseph, Lake Claiborne in Homer, Poverty Point Reservoir in Delhi, and South Toledo Bend outside Anacoco.
3. DISCOVER A NEW TREASURE
Chemin-A-Haut State Park is filled with old-growth trees so a paddle through its bayous offers something truly unique. The piece de resistance is “The Castle,” a giant cypress dating back centuries. The best way to view — and enjoy — this 1000-year-old tree is by canoe or kayak. Approximately 20 feet in diameter, the wide tree offers a hollow cavern so paddlers can peek inside the tree that witnessed Native Americans and Europeans alike way before the United States purchased our great state.
Lake Fausse Pointe State Park outside St. Martinville also offers a grove of ancient cypress, accessible only by boat. Poverty Point in the northeast corner of Louisiana contains remnants of a unique civilization dating back centuries and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Spring and early summer weather in Louisiana makes for the perfect opportunity to get outdoors. Enjoy Louisiana’s state parks during a variety of numerous events happening statewide. Dutch oven cooking occurs at many of the parks, performed by the Louisiana Dutch Oven Society. Louisiana rests on the Mississippi Flyway so colorful migratory birds are in abundance and many parks, such as the Louisiana State Arboretum and Sam Houston Jones State Park near Lake Charles offer bird walks. Historic sites such as Rosedown Plantation in St. Francisville, Poverty Point World Heritage Site in Epps and the Acadian Farmstead at Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site in St. Martinville feature monthly tours with historians and park rangers.
To discover what’s happening at Louisiana State Parks, visit https://www.crt.state.la.us/louisiana-state-parks/news-activities/calendar-of-events/index