Our lush ecosystem lies at the very heart of our vibrant culture. Long-legged wading birds hunt along the misty fresh water marshes and moss laden bayous. Alligators warm themselves along the canal banks crisscrossing the windswept coastal prairies. Known as Louisiana’s Outback, this vast wetland is home to 28 different species of mammals, 35 types of reptiles and amphibians, 132 kinds of fish, and over 400 varieties of birds.
The best way I explore Louisiana’s Outback consists of driving the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road. This drive includes almost 200 miles of scenic byway along with 26 miles of Gulf Coast frontage. The journey begins a few miles west of downtown Lake Charles in Sulphur at Adventure Point. Want to know the best places along the trail to photograph songbirds? Or how to catch a mess of fresh Louisiana blue crabs? Maybe you are curious as to how we enjoy the abundance provided us by our coastal wetlands? Well, Adventure Point is full of interactive and immersive exhibits showing just that! Let the kind folks at Adventure Point explain the trail as it loops south from Sulphur to the Gulf, east to Rutherford Beach, and back north to Lake Charles.
Another favorite way to immerse myself in our Outback requires grabbing a fishing pole and hitting the water. Louisiana didn’t earn the Sportsman's Paradise title by accident and fishing rightfully sits at the top of the list of favorite outdoor sports. And Big Lake Guide Service has been helping sportsman wet their hooks for 25 years. About the time the sky shifts from the dark indigo of pre-dawn to the rosy hue of sunrise, their 16-foot bay boats are planing out, heading for open water. By the time the sun burns off the morning mists, lines have already been cast and hopes are high for landing Redfish, Southern Flounder, and Speckled Trout. More adventurous anglers head a few miles offshore to hook into some heavy hitting Crevalle Jack, Amberjack, Vermilion Snapper, and Spanish Mackerel.
The nature enthusiast in me gets up-close-and-personal thanks to Gross Savanne Eco-tours. Amongst the trees and low-lying shrubs dotting their 50,000-acre reserve, the squealing bleats and deep grunts of thousands of nesting birds carry across the water. As we drift closer the trees or a closer look, the aromatic blooms of purple Water Hyacinth, Spider Lilies, and American Lotus bob in our passing wake. Coasting under the low boughs of the trees, the brilliant white reflections of the egrets ripple as we approach. In a swish of feathers and leaves, downy white chicks wobble on unsure legs to get a better look at us as we peer into their nests.
And no trip, whether staycation or vacation, is complete without a festival or two. And since we throw over 75 parties a year, that shouldn’t be problem. Of course, as a local, the pageantry of Mardi Gras tends to be my favorite but every season brings to life the unique personalities of Lake Charles and the surrounding communities. Spring brings the Starks Mayhaw Festival, the Iowa Rabbit Festival, and the DeQuincy Railroad Days.
Pirates take over the city in summer for Louisiana Pirate Festival, and bands take over downtown for Downtown at Sundown. Fall means suped up cars and bragging rights during the Stars and Stripes in the Park Classic Car Show and the Boudin Wars. For more festival fun, download the Lake Charles Events App. All of the area's events in the palm of my hand - perfect!
Yeah, my backyard is pretty awesome. If you find yourself here be sure to share your #VisitLakeCharles experiences with us!