Dec 13, 2011

The Creole Nature Trail in Southwest Louisiana.

When John and I were in Lake Charles we took the opportunity to explore the natural wonders of Southwest Louisiana. The Pintail Wildlife Drive is just part of The Creole Nature Trail, which is recognized as a National Scenic Byway by the Federal Highway Administration's America 's Byways program in 1996. And, in 2002, it was upgraded to an All-American Road. Our first stop was at the Visitor’s Center at the Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge. They have exhibits explaining the unique aspects of the area. One display showed the largest alligator caught in the area – 19 feet and two inches and a whopping 1000 pounds. Amazing. Recently a resident shot a gator that ambling up on his lawn. It officially measured 13 feet and 5 inches and weighed around 700 pounds. There is a hunting season on alligators. The skin and meat are saleable items. During the gator discussion my desire to see an alligator in the wild disappeared. I’ll settle for an occasional skunk or raccoon in my yard. The Visitor Center had a great animatronic called “Tante Marie,” an old Cajun lady. In the diorama she poled out in her pirogue and talked about life in the bayou. Animatronics are talking statues that add an interesting aspect to museum visits.

Nearby is the Pintail Wildlife drive, a three-mile driving loop through moist soil wetlands, which have been manipulated by the US Fish & Wildlife Service to provide a feeding and resting habitat for wintering waterfowl. It is on a flyway so there are a variety of birds year round. A new handicap accessible walking boardwalk trail opened in 2010. Technology has made nature trails more informative. An audio tour of the Creole Nature Trail All American Road is an excellent way to make the most of a visit. These downloadable tours are divided into trail segments so visitors can use as many or as few as they wish. Once downloaded, they can be loaded onto a mp3 player or burned to a CD. Either way visitors will have a host of information at their fingertips. We walked the boardwalk and then drove around the adjacent driving loop. We didn’t see any alligators, phew, but they say alligators outnumber people 10 to one! We saw plenty of birds as the area is on a flyway. We saw herons and a couple varieties of ducks.The Creole Nature Trail has 180 miles of bayous, marshlands and beaches. There just wasn’t time to see it all so we headed to Shell Beach. The Trail has 26 miles of beaches. Shell beach seemed to go on forever and basically deserted except for a family fishing. Luckily I had picked up a guide to shells at the Visitor Center and enjoyed looking for the various shells along the “trash line.” The trash line is where the waves hit the shore and leaves “treasures.” It was the best shell-picking beach we have been to. We could see oil rigs out in the Gulf of Mexico but the beach and water were pristine.
We based ourselves in Lake Charles at the L’Auberge Casino Resort where there was plenty to do every evening. During the day there were museums, historical drives, and plenty of other things to do. There were things we didn’t get to do: fishing, boating, and golfing – next time. For more information check on