Voyages: Wild at Heart

Nature lovers have plenty to love at parks, lakes, trails and camps all over the Sportsman’s Paradise

Visitors come to Grosse Savanne Lodge for the excellent hunting and fishing but on this crisp spring morning we came to shoot birds. Our weapons of choice, however, were cameras.

Louisiana is known as Sportman’s Paradise — and with good reason. The state offers unique fishing and hunting opportunities, not to mention all varieties of boat sports, but also chances to commune with nature, whether viewing migratory and resident birds, hiking through various ecosystems or paddling diverse waterways.

One of the best ways to enjoy Louisiana’s diverse landscape is the circuitous route along the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road. Visitors can access the trail from Interstate 10 in Sulphur, heading south to enjoy numerous trails and boardwalks with up-close viewing of alligators, dozens of bird species and other wildlife. The trail’s seven Gulf beaches along Louisiana Hwy. 82 offer fishing, swimming and shelling and the Cameron Jetties are home to some of the best fishing in Louisiana. The protected Peveto Woods Sanctuary in the southwest corner remains a bucket list for birders.

A good place to lay your head after enjoying the Creole Nature Trail is Sam Houston Jones State Park north of Lake Charles. Louisiana has recently invested $3 million to upgrade the park.

For those who love the outdoors but prefer screened windows and a comfortable bed, Palmetto Island State Park south of Abbeville remains the new kid on the block, so cabins are only a few years old, offering full kitchens and living rooms and easily sleeping eight. Many of Lake Fausse Pointe State Park’s cabins have reopened since the 2016 flood and have been refurbished.

Toledo Bend Reservoir continues to be named the No. 1 Bass Lake in the Nation by Bassmaster Magazine and hosts several bass tournaments each year. In addition to the Cypress Bend Golf Resort, Spa & Conference Center, there are numerous private cabins and lodges and two Louisiana state parks.

“We have about 90 single home and camp rentals on Toledo Bend,” said Linda Curtis-Sparks, executive director of the Sabine Parish Tourist & Recreation Commission.

Bo Dowden & Associates Real Estate, for instance, rents more upscale accommodations, including units at Bailey Bluff, right on the lake.

Back to Grosse Savanne and that early morning visit with birds. Glossy and white-faced ibis protected nests filled with chicks. Other birds flew overhead and alligators swam through the marshes, an up-close and personal view at Louisiana wildlife led by conservation specialist Bobby Jorden.

Grosse Savanne offers these eco-friendly tours through restored wetlands on its 50,000 acres of private lands, along with year-round waterfowl hunting and fishing trips with overnight accommodations and meals. Southwest Louisiana sits inside the Central and Mississippi Flyways so millions of birds fly through the area during the fall and winter months. Hunters and birders alike revel in the experience.

“Grosse Savanne is one of the top two or three lodging accommodations for hunting and fishing in the state,” said Kyle Edmiston, COO of the Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau.


 

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