Creole Nature Trail

  • Southwest
  • 00_0030_2012-08-17_101644
  • Southwest
  • 00_0098_2012-08-16_110646
  • 00_0115_2012-08-16_134047
  • 00_0121_2012-08-16_141210
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Louisiana has more than a dozen roads and highways that are designated as Scenic Byways. Most of them are rural and pretty much off-the-beaten-path, which makes them absolutely perfect for motorcycling, especially if you are a “road less traveled” kind of rider like me.The state tourism folks have been beefing up their byway program recently, adding new signs, new brochures, new technology, and even a new website.Last fall I have decided to take them all on, all fifteen Louisiana Scenic Byways. It is the perfect way to see this great beautiful place called Louisiana and to experience the diversity of food, music and culture the Bayou State has to offer. Plus, it makes for some terrific riding and destinations.One of the first places I headed was the state’s oldest and perhaps best known byways; the Creole Nature Trail.Located in the southwest corner of the state and covering lower Calcasieu and Cameron Parishes, the Creole Nature Trail takes you through marshlands, vast prairies and swamps. If you want to see alligators, up close and personal this is the way to do it.My riding buddy Tammi Arender joined me on her Road King and we headed first for Lake Charles and the Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitors Center, which is located right off the Interstate 10 on the shores of the lake which gives the City its name.We stopped at the Visitor’s Center to meet with Anne Klenke, who is the director of the Creole Nature Trail program and to pick up some tips on where to go and what to see.Anne also told us about a new technology available. Handheld GPS devices which can be used like a pocket tour guide. They are packed with information and points of interest and activate when you reach a certain area on the trail. Pretty cool stuff, but not suited for our bikes, but great for cars and such, or if you carry a passenger they can handle the GPS pilot. There is also an app available for your smart phone which we did use from time to time when we were off the bikes.Following our visit we hopped on the bikes and headed South on Louisiana Highway 27 toward our first destination on the Creole Nature Trail –the Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Preserve.Yes, although this may not be what you typically think of when you hear the word prairie, that is indeed what this area is, although it is a little wetter than the prairies out west.The Preserve features an interpretive center and boardwalks and trails where you can literally walk out into the wilderness.Just a few miles down the road at the Pintail Wildlife Drive and Boardwalk we got to see our first alligators. The drive features a raised boardwalk which takes you out into the wetlands… where you’ll find binoculars for viewing distant birds and wildlife. Or for a more “up close and personal” view you can drive along a three mile hard-packed shell loop road. The road gets a little dusty in the dry season and if you don’t like riding on gravel you may want to just stick with the boardwalk. But if you want to see some alligators this is the way to do it. We saw two, who came right up on the roadway and watched us pass by.Back on the Byway, we headed south to Louisiana Highway 82, the coastal portion of the Creole Nature Trail. We hadn’t yet satisfied our curiosity about alligators and local resident and businessman Ben Welch had promised to help. Welch provides airboat tours and operates an alligator nursery.Ben uses the airboat and a helicopter to search for alligator nests out in the marsh. When he finds one, he retrieves the eggs and brings them to his nursery to hatch. Ever hatched an alligator egg in your hand? I did and it was pretty cool.

Somewhere out there in the Louisiana marsh, there are about a couple of alligators who think of me as mommy gator.

Day Two of our adventure took us to the western-most portion of LA 82. The ride along this portion of the byway is pretty spectacular; nearly 24 miles of beach, uncluttered by townhomes and condominiums. In fact if it weren’t for the occasional fishing boat or off shore oil rig in the distance, it would be pretty easy to start feeling a little lonely way out here.

This time we took LA 82 all the way east to the Rockefeller Wildlife Preserve, near Grand Chenier. The preserve features a four mile drive where you can see alligators, birds and all sorts of wildlife. The preserve is an important winter habitat for migrating waterfowl and is a very popular place for fishing. There is a large observation tower you can climb and get a panoramic view of the entire area. It was one of Tammi’s favorite places and a great place to end our Creole Nature Trail ride.

The Creole Nature Trail is a great motorcycle ride. The roads are in good condition and well-marked. There are tons of great places to visit and things to see. Traffic is light and the people are incredibly friendly and helpful.

There are dozens of great bars and restaurants in an around Lake Charles and of course there are the casinos.

If you want to ride Louisiana’s scenic byways, I recommend you start with the Creole Nature Trail. You can do it in a day or take your time like we did. Either way, you won’t be disappointed.