Creole Nature Trail All-American Road
Louisiana’s prairies, marshes and shores teem with wildlife, and a drive along the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road gives visitors a chance to experience nature’s bounty up close. In fact, signs along the route mark favorite spots for alligator crossings. The beauty of 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 and ancient cheniers – sandy ridges studded with oak trees, rising above the low-lying coasts. Bring an ice chest – you’ll find lots of places to buy (or catch!) fresh shrimp, crabs and other seafood.
180-miles in length, you can explore the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road along several routes. Here are a few suggestions:
Begin your journey in Sulphur, which sat on a major deposit of the mineral for which it was named. The town’s Brimstone Museum tells the story of sulfur mining in the area. As you drive south on Highway 27, you’ll notice a gradual change in the landscape as you move from prairie lands to coastal marsh. Cameron Parish has more than 700,000 acres of wetlands. As you approach Hackberry, you’ll pass shrimp and crab houses along Kelso Bayou (the once-rumored hideout of legendary pirate Jean Lafitte).
Soon you’ll approach the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge a prime wintering ground for waterfowl. Take the Wetland Walkway, a 1.5 mile loop walk into the marsh to see alligators, birds and other indigenous critters. Gators are plentiful here and can grow up to 14 feet. (Visitors are advised not to feed or approach them—they are, after all, wild creatures.) Continuing south, you come to Holly Beach, where you can swim, picnic and hunt for shells. Turning west takes you along Highway 82 toward the Texas state line. Providing a nearly continuous view of the Gulf of Mexico, this stretch takes you to Peveto Woods Sanctuary (a must for birders!). Turning east takes you to the car ferry across the Calcasieu Ship Channel and into the community of Cameron.
Begin your adventure in Lake Charles, where you can get a taste of city life before delving into nature. Try your luck at one of the casinos, dine in a fine restaurant or take a relaxing stroll along the Lake Charles Boardwalk. A highlight is the Charpentier Historic District, with Victorian-era homes both designed and built by carpenters. Nearby is the Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge, a haven for wintering waterfowl and 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. At Highway 27’s intersection with Highway 82, turn east. Along this marshy stretch, look for cranes, pelicans and, in warm weather, an occasional alligator. Past the town of Grand Chenier lies the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge. A drive along the refuge’s four-mile Price Lake Road gives visitors a close-up view of this coastal marshland and its inhabitants. (The road is closed from Dec. 1 to March 1 for migrating waterfowl). Or, if you turn west, you will head towards the community for which this parish (your county) was named, Cameron.
A FREE personal tour app of the Creole Nature Trail is also available in iTunes and Google Play (just search "Creole"). The app is available in English, French, Spanish, German, Chinese and Japanese.
For all the details visit CreoleNatureTrail.org