Natchitoches, Louisiana, the oldest city in the state, is known for its brick-paved Front Street along the Cane River Lake. The waterfront serves not only as a center piece of the destination, but also as the perfect starting point for a variety of outdoor activities Natchitoches has to offer. Just off I-49, which connects to I-20 in Shreveport (to the north) and I-10 in Lafayette (to the south), this historic downtown is the perfect starting place for exploration on land and water.
Beau Jardin Garden & Water Feature and Roque House Park (781 Front Street, Natchitoches, Louisiana 71457; 318-352-2746) are located on the downtown riverbank overlooking Cane River Lake. Exploring the waters from here is easy with rentals from Cane River Paddle & Pedal Sports (101 rue Beau Port, Downtown Riverbank Dock Station, Natchitoches, Louisiana 71457; 318-527-0066). They offer kayaks, for paddling or pedaling, stand up paddle boards and hydro bikes rentals.
There are numerous other outdoor areas to enjoy around downtown including a series of small Pocket Parks. Nearby, the city’s large Parc Natchitoches (4515 University Parkway, Natchitoches, Louisiana 71457; 318-357-3892) may be built for sports, but non-athletes can enjoy the fishing pond, walking trails, pavilions and other amenities. The Grady Erwin Nature Area (Highway 6 West, Natchitoches, Louisiana) is located on 84 acres and offers hiking and nature trails. There are three trails here, totaling 4.5 miles, for beginner and intermediate level. The trails are open for walking, running and include jumps and turns for bikers.
Briarwood Nature Preserve (216 Caroline Dorman Road, Saline, Louisiana 71070; 318-576-3379) is a gem for outdoor lovers and is considered the most complete botanical and wildlife sanctuary in Louisiana. This is the birthplace and home of Caroline Dormon, a world-renowned naturalist, author, artist and the first woman to be hired in the United States Forest Service. The preserve strives to carry Dormon’s work by preserving native wildflowers and educating the public on natural wonders of the region. There are forest trails, a Louisiana iris bog and reflection pool.
Another treasure is the nearby Kisatchie National Forest, Louisiana’s only national forest, just a 20-minute drive from Natchitoches. Here, amid thousands of acres of preserved wilderness, are breathtaking vistas and miles of trails for day hiking, biking and OHV adventure. There are also picnic and camping areas and more than 604,000 acres of preserved land.
Natchitoches National Fish Hatchery (615 South Drive, Natchitoches, Louisiana 71457-3056; 318-352-5324) offers an uncommon opportunity to explore the underwater life of the region. Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the hatchery’s 53 outdoor ponds as well as the newly renovated indoor aquarium with 18 display tanks. A walk along the levees is the perfect opportunity for birdwatching and wildlife viewing at this eBird hotspot. The hatchery is open seven days a week, 8 a.m. to 3 pm.
Where to Stay in Natchitoches…
Natchitoches has excellent camping options for RVers and outdoor enthusiasts. Some favorites are:
Grand Ecore RV Park (1071 Tauzin Island Road, Natchitoches, Louisiana 71457; 318-238-7446) This park has 59 RV sites, including pull-through and back-in sites. Amenities include a fully gated facility, asphalt roads and concrete RV Pads, fire rings and activity center with a full kitchen.
Black Lake Haven (5780 LA-9, Saline, Louisiana 71070; 318-875-2288) This popular RV park also has cabin rentals and is located on picturesque Blake Lake in Creston, Louisiana. Lake lovers enjoy the boat launch and excellent fishing.
Christel RV Park (172 Jim Bell Road, Campti, Louisiana 71411; 318-617-4964) In its beautiful waterfront setting, this RV park is located 15 miles north of the historical town of Natchitoches. It features a relaxed setting, premium-sized lots and great fishing on Black Lake.
Natchitoches Pecan Orchard RV Park (140 Highway 120, Natchitoches, LA 71457, Natchitoches, Louisiana 71457; 318-471-7147) This 51-space park is located in a beautiful orchard with lots of shade. Most sites are pull throughs with 50-amp hookups and the spacious bath house is handicap accessible and houses a coin-operated laundry mat.
El Camino Real RV Park (6832 Highway 6, Natchitoches, Louisiana 71457; 318-332-8712) Just a short drive north of downtown Natchitoches, this park has large gravel sites as well as picnic and fire areas.
If You Go to Natchitoches…
These outdoor attractions are popular for Natchitoches visitors of all ages:
Gator Country Louisiana (380 Old Bayou Pierre Road, Natchitoches, Louisiana 71457; 318-354-0106) is the largest alligator park in a state known for its gators. It is home to more than 250 American Alligators as well as a petting zoo, bird sanctuary, reptile house, jungle, tortoise exhibit and more.
Dark Woods Adventure Park (4343 University Parkway, Natchitoches, Louisiana 71457; 318-228-1725) offers a mix of adventures throughout the year. The Lost Treasure Mining Company is a year-round family attraction which includes panning for gems along a rustic, 100-foot wooden mining sluice. The mine is joined in fall by Dark Woods Haunted Attractions, followed by Christmas in the Park each year.
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