Tired of traveling from your couch, but not yet ready to go far afield?
Alternately called a “Dream State” and the “Sportsman’s Paradise,” Louisiana is undoubtedly a state rich with many options for the day tripper in need of a fresh venue and light exercise.
It’s easy to forget that many of the wildlife preserves, historic sites, and beautiful parks found throughout the state – run by the National Park Service or Louisiana State Parks – are located within two hours of New Orleans. Too, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries administer beautiful preserves across the state that also are nearby.
Currently the National Park Service is increasing access and services to its parks on a “rolling open” basis. Visit their website to determine daily status.
Many of our state parks feature overnight facilities and tours. With Phase One of Louisiana’s reopening, state park overnight facilities were reopened to residents as of Friday, May 15, with tours available for groups of nine or fewer.
Among the closest New Orleans getaways – and often forgotten – are the Chalmette Battlefield and Chalmette National Cemetery, just south of the city proper in St. Bernard Parish. This is where, in January 1815, General Andrew Jackson’s troops defeated the British and thwarted their efforts to take the strategic Port of New Orleans.
The facility is run by the National Park Service and features a visitor center with daily tours prior to its COVID-19 closing. As of this writing, even though the gates are currently locked, the park is open and walkways and outdoor spaces have pedestrian access. The ample, shaded land allows for easy social distancing.
8606 West St. Bernard Highway, Chalmette, LA, 504.281.0510.
Almost unbelievably, this 26,000-acre national wildlife refuge is just a 15-minute drive from downtown New Orleans, northeast on I-10 to Lacombe. The one-half-mile Ridge Trail is a boardwalk loop, and there are an additional five miles of nature trails.
The refuge is an important stop in the migratory Mississippi Flyway and is year-round home to 350 bird species, making it ideal for bird watching enthusiasts. One of the last remaining marshes adjacent to Lakes Pontchartrain and Borgne, the refuge also is home to numerous alligator residents and other wildlife.
61389 Hwy 434, Lacombe, LA, 985.882.2000.
Located along the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, on a 2,800-acre tract that was a sugar cane plantation until 1852, this park features nature trails, bike path, and shoreline beach for sunning and splashing.
Bordered on three sides by water – Lake Pontchartrain, and Bayous Cane and Castine – this park is home to over 400 bird species and is a bird watcher’s paradise. Campgrounds and newly renovated cabins for overnight stays by reservation.
62883 Hwy. 1089 Mandeville, LA, 985.624.4443.
Want to fish? Need to put your feet in the sand? Louisianans usually think of our neighboring Mississippi Gulf Coast when they think “beach.”
Yet Grand Isle – Louisiana’s only inhabited barrier island – features a 150-acre state park with sandy beaches and 900-foot pier, perfect for fishing and crabbing.
Complete with nearly three miles of hiking trails, the marshes here afford excellent bird watching. Overnight camping is available.
Admiral Craik Drive, Grand Isle, LA, 985.787.2559.
Elmer’s Island is a 230-acre wildlife refuge just off Highway 1 on the way to Grand Isle from Port Fourchon. Accessible by winding dirt and shell road, the island is directly across the Caminada Pass from Grand Isle. Administered by the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the island gem offers a peaceful respite, excellent for beachcombing and surf fishing.
See the Wildlife & Fisheries website, or call their office (800.256.2747) for more information.