Lake Charles is a Must-Visit Spot for Nature Lovers
Louisiana’s prairies, marshes and shores teem with wildlife, and a drive along the 180-mile Creole Nature Trail All-American Road gives visitors a chance to experience nature’s bounty up close. In fact, signs along the route mark common spots for alligator crossings. This remote terrain, often referred to as “Louisiana’s Outback,” is readily accessible and includes four wildlife refuges as well as 26 miles of natural Gulf of Mexico beaches. Other features include untouched wetlands, small fishing communities offering fresh seafood, and ancient cheniers – sandy ridges studded with oak trees, rising above the low-lying coasts. The Creole Nature Trail All-American Road is a journey through a wild and rugged terrain unique to Louisiana, America and the world. Once the domain of nomadic Indians, the legendary pirate Jean Lafitte, Civil War soldiers and a host of colorful characters who came to find their fortunes in a fertile land, rich in untapped natural resources and boundless opportunity. Along this distinctive natural corridor through Louisiana’s Outback, one of America’s “Last Great Wildernesses,” you have the opportunity to experience world-famous wildlife habitats and estuaries. The untamed wilderness you encounter along the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road will create lifelong memories.
Creole Nature Trail Adventure Point is the visitor center, where interactive displays depict the area’s wealth of alligators, migrating songbirds, and more wildlife found in bayous and marshes. Smell mouthwatering aromas of Cajun and Creole cooking, and “play along” with a Cajun and Zydeco band. Then, let the friendly staff help you plan your trip along the trail.
The Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge, complete with animated figures with information and stories, will spark the imaginations of the young and the young at heart. Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge was established to preserve and protect wintering waterfowl and their habitat. Located at the intersection of two major flyways, the refuge has an important role in management for migratory birds and is a great place for nature photography. Depending on the time of year, the Cameron Prairie Visitor Center as well as Pintail Wildlife Drive are excellent locations to spot alligators as well as a host of birds and waterfowl, including roseate spoonbills. The Wildlife Refuge also offers fishing opportunities at both the Gibbstown Unit as well as the East Cove Unit. Birders will also love the Peveto Woods Sanctuary – a 41-acre island that sees more than two million birds each year. The Wetland Walkway, located on the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge allows visitors to walk out onto the marsh and see alligators, birds and animals all in their natural habitats. And past the town of Grand Chenier lies the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge – where a drive along the refuge’s four-mile Price Lake Road gives visitors a close-up view of this coastal marshland and its inhabitants.
Biking is another popular pastime on the Creole Nature Trail. Cruise down rural Highway 27 that runs between the villages of Creole and Bell City, through Cameron Prairie National Wildlife, and take a side trip down Pintail Wildlife Drive. Prien Lake Park offers 29 acres of outdoor serenity on the water. Take advantage of canoe and boat launches, a kids playground and Spray Ground water park, numerous picnic areas and more. Or, simply take a walk along the water at sunset for amazing views. Gulf beaches along the Gulf of Mexico, like Holly Beach, offer opportunities for swimming, picnicking and hunting for shells for the most avid collectors. Dig your hands into thousands of mini shells or find unbroken, pearly shells all along the coast. You’ll also enjoy hunting, fishing and crabbing in Louisiana’s Outback – the fish are always jumping. Get a fishing guide and load up with your picnic lunch and ice chest, primed for the catch of the day. You’ll find lots of hot spots – and you can fish year-round!
Lake Charles offers a fusion of city life and the outdoors. It is a prime spot for casinos, southern cooking and shopping at the Lake Charles Boardwalk. A highlight is the Charpentier Historic District, with Victorian-era homes both designed and built by carpenters. The Charpentier Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is full of turn-of-the-century homes designed and built by local carpenters. Spend enough time walking beneath giant old live oaks, checking out the distinctive Lake Charles-style architecture, and you may find yourself looking at real estate listings and daydreaming about staying in town for much longer than your visit. You can also explore the area with Lake Charles Carriages, a full-service carriage company that offers relaxing tours through Lake Charles. Dine on a delicious meal with amazing outdoor views at Chart House, or enjoy your meal paired with live music at Luna Bar & Grill. Practice your wing at the Golden Nugget or L’Auberge’s pristine golf courses. Cast a line in the Calcasieu Estuary with an expert guide provided by Grosse Savanne Lodge, and be sure to experience various ecotypes including both fresh and salt water marshes, cypress swamps, native coastal prairies, pine forest plantations, and agricultural lands with their Grosse Savanne Eco-Tours.
There are a plethora of ways to explore the outdoors in the Lake Charles and southwest Louisiana area. Learn more at ExploreLouisiana.com.