L ouisiana is about 52,000 square miles and about 15 percent is water—inland lakes and swamps, coastal marshlands, scenic small rivers, canals and bayous (slow moving streams). The best way to experience Louisiana’s waterways and the animals and plants that call them home is by canoe, kayak or paddleboard. Here are some ideal places to paddle your way throughout the state.
Sportsman’s Paradise: Dorcheat Bayou in Webster Parish is a short drive from Shreveport or Bossier City, and it offers great views of adjacent hardwood, cypress and tupelo forests. The best access points are around Dixie Inn and on La. Hwy. 2 near Sarepta.
Honorable Mention: Bayou Bartholomew’s 365-mile path from the middle of Arkansas through Louisiana is said to be the longest bayou in North America. For an abbreviated experience, try an eight mile path through Morehouse Parish that tours a 1,000-year-old cypress swamp.
Crossroads: Depending on seasonal water levels, Toro Bayou in Sabine Parish offers easy to moderately difficult whitewater paddling. The fishing is excellent, so pack the rod and reel.
Honorable Mention: Kisatchie National Forest’s Kisatchie Bayou in Natchitoches Parish is a haven for paddling and connects hikers to the forest’s stunning scenic overlooks.
Cajun Country: The Cajun Coast Paddling Trails are seven routes through 170,000 acres of designated wildlife management areas in St. Mary Parish. It is a must-do for paddlers who double as birders.
Honorable Mention: Lake Fausse Point State Park in the Atchafalaya Basin near St. Martinville has marked paddle paths through the cypress stands on the lake as wells as nice overnight cabins.
Plantation Country:Tickfaw State Park near Springfield offers paddlers the opportunity to explore cypress and tupelo swamps, bottomland hardwoods and mixed pine and hardwood forests at one site via the Tickfaw River.
Honorable Mention: The Tangipahoa River near Independence, long known as a destination for south Louisiana river tubing, is also a great place for a serene trek by canoe.
Greater New Orleans: The Kenta Canal in the Barataria Preserve near Jean Lafitte was once mostly frequented by cypress logging operations. Now its users are paddlers—and a thriving alligator population.
Honorable Mention: Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge is 36,000 acres of the Pearl River Basin north of Slidell in St. Tammany Parish. It offers nice paddling and even better wildlife watching.
For more information on these paddles, more opportunities statewide plus nearby paddling outfitters to support your adventure, visit Louisiana’s official paddling webpage.
Writer: Jeff Richard
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