Step Outside - Louisiana WELCOME TO STEP OUTSIDE! Find the best outdoor fun near you! en-us 30 http://stepoutside.org/ Step Outside - Louisiana 144 144 http://stepoutside.org/ https://cdnstep-americantownscom.netdna-ssl.com/img/stepoutside_logo.gif Sat, 20 Oct 2018 03:41:24 -0500 Best Places to Fish in the South This Fall Redfish are starting to move inshore and set up at the mouths of bays, inlets and deltas as their annual spawning run commences. The bottom line for fishermen is outstanding fishing from late September through November in the northern Gulf.

Likewise, bass fishing is starting to pick up again as the weather begins to cool. Huge schools of threadfin shad are starting to filter away from open-water ledges into bays and tributaries where feeding conditions and water temperatures are more optimum.

Bass follow the food, first setting up on ledges at the mouths of inlets and creeks to waylay shad, then migrating back toward shallower water to keep up with their quarry.

Fall Script for Southern Bass

Bass rule in Dixie and cooler weather brings out an army of anglers who go after them. Whether largemouth, smallmouth or spotted bass, they’re available in most waters and sometimes all three varieties are present in a fishery, ready to aggravate or gratify those who seek them.

Hot Spots To Fish: When it comes to the South’s best lakes for fall fishing, the big TVA impoundments fit the bill. Because this is bass tournament country, dozens of YouTube videos and Facebook sites of pro anglers offer useful advice on where and how to catch autumn largemouths. Likewise, guide services are plentiful; just Google “fishing guides” for the lake you’re visiting or type in the town nearest the lake you wish to fish on the interactive map on this page.

Tackle You’ll Need: A 7-foot medium/heavy rod such as the St. Croix Premier Cranking, a baitcasting reel like the Abu Garcia Revo Winch and 10- to 14-pound-test monofilament makes a good combination to fish downsized lures.

Quick tip: This is strictly a match-the-hatch deal. Use lures that are about the same size as wandering shad. If young-of-the-year threadfins are on the bass menu, try small swim baits fished on drop-shot rigs.

 

Best Lures/Baits: Shad-colored, shallow- and medium-diving square-billed or coffin-billed crankbaits are autumn standouts. Popular lures include the Strike King 6XD, Bandit 100 or 200, Duo Realis M65, Livetarget Magnum Shad BaitBall Squarebill, Megabass S-Crank, Lucky Craft Squarebill 2.5, Storm Arashi and Rapala Shad Rap.

Fish them around shoreline cover and on the flats between creek drop-offs and the bank. Other fallback baits include spinnerbaits like the Booyah Super Shad, Stanley Vibrashaft and Nichols Pulsator. Good buzzbait options can be found from Lunker Lure, Damiki, Santone and Dirty Jigs.

Rendezvous With Redfish

Along the northern Gulf Coast from Carrabelle, FL, to Grand Isle, LA, the redfish season begins in late September and continues in stages through December. Some anglers fish in the surf with cut bait, while others station themselves on area piers or in boats on relatively shallow flats near channel cuts.

Hot Spots To Fish: For boating anglers, a couple of spots stick out. Pensacola Bay Pass is a must-fish for boaters. Anchor up on the broad flat between old Fort Pickens and the channel, set out lines as the tide changes to incoming, and hang on. Need more help? Redfish University Pensacola Fishing Charters (850-748-4368, redfishuniversity.com) specializes in the big drum.

At Grand Isle, LA, book a trip with Gotta Go Fishing Charters (225-921-3642, gottagofishingcharters.com). The marshes and inshore waters around Venice, LA, are primo redfish haunts as well. Captain Mike Frenette (504-782-0924, laredfish.com or (mike@venicefishing.net) is a top guide here.

Photograph Courtesy of Strike King Lure Company 
Louisiana’s coastal waters are ground zero for the hottest autumn redfish action along the northern Gulf Coast. A variety of natural baits and artificials get the job done.

Tackle You’ll Need: “Rat” reds of 3 pounds and up, or real bruisers weighing in excess of 20 pounds require a range of tackle options. Bass fishing tackle – whether spinning or baitcasting – is perfect for handling smaller fish and for casting jigs or swimbaits that weigh less than an ounce. A Shimano Stradic spinning reel and 7-foot medium-action Shimano Compre rod with 14-pound-test monofilament.

For bigger fish, consider a Penn Battle II BTLII5000 with 20-pound-test monofilament or 40-pound-test braid, and a 30-pound-test fluorocarbon leader. A 7-foot medium-heavy spinning rod (such as the Penn Battalion BATIN1220S70) should handle any bait rigs or lures and wear down a bull redfish in short order.

Quick Tip: Incoming tides in late evening or at night are primo times for reds as the fish free-spawn then in the mouths of coastal bays and estuaries. If you can’t fish any other time, make sure you fish the incoming tides.

 

Best Lures/Baits: Redfish aren’t particular about their dietary requirements and will eat anything from blue crabs to halved mullet. Swimming spoons such as the Johnson Sprite (johnsonfishing.com), swimbaits and jigs or even topwater poppers, such as the Heddon Saltwater Spook, will elicit strikes.

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Photograph Courtesy of Strike King Lure Company Photo By Garrick Dixon Shallow- to medium-running crankbaits probably account for more bass than any other lure in the fall when the fish are on the prowl for shad in feeder creeks and coves. http://stepoutside.org/article/best-places-to-fish-in-the-south-this-fall http://stepoutside.org/article/best-places-to-fish-in-the-south-this-fall Thu, 11 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0500
10 Best Outdoor Fall Activities in Louisiana Cooler temperatures mean Louisiana comes to life with activities like hiking, camping, and hunting. Interested in a rustic cabin experience in North Toledo Bend State Park? How about a guided hunting retreat for pheasants and duck? We’ve got it. Check out our favorite fall activities in Louisiana.  

Mark your calendars now for the Annual Fall Tour of Homes in Natchitoches. This fall pilgrimage takes place in October each year and showcases some of the most unique and interesting homes in this part of Louisiana. You’ll go inside and see the outside of some very special houses, each with a story worth hearing. 

Camping in Louisiana’s summer heat can get pretty unbearable, so once September or October hits, head out to North Toledo Bend State Park for a camping experience you won’t forget. This beautiful state park has a lot going on. You’ll find plenty of hiking trails, water-sport opportunities, bird watching, and more. It is a local favorite and is also accommodating to travelers, as there are many options for lodging. There are rustic cabins to rent, but most campers prefer to sleep without a roof over their heads in their tent. You can’t put a price tag on falling asleep under the stars in such pleasant weather.

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If you’re a photographer by profession or hobby, Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center in Baton Rouge is a great place to practice your art. The lush jungle environment with its swamps and walkways are perfect for getting pictures of the trees, birds, and animals that live there. The live animal exhibits will bring a smile to your face, as well as your kids, and it’s a great way to mix fun, exercise, and education. 

Any day is a good day for fishing, but fall presents seasonal opportunities. Northern Louisiana is the location of Grand Bayou Resort, a 2,800-acre paradise for those who love to camp, hike, fish, or just relax and experience in the cooler weather starting to roll in. The Grand Bayou Lake is stocked with plenty of largemouth bass and is a fisherman’s dream. 

Fall is the best time to be outside when summer heat isn’t making you melt, and the best place to shop outdoors is in The French Market District of New Orleans. There are open-air markets where you can purchase fresh locally grown produce, stroll around and see all of the artwork, eat on the patio of the best restaurants in the city, and shop at boutiques, and head to Crescent Park. You’ll want to spend some time at this 20-acre park with a 1.4-mile walk that brings you from the city to the riverfront.

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If hunting is in your blood, you’ll love what the folks at Bin There Hunting in Welsh bring to the table. Their preserve is fully stocked with doves, teal, geese, ducks, pheasants, and more, so you certainly won’t leave empty-handed! Most packages include dogs, decoys, plenty of targets, and a meal. This is the perfect getaway for when the fall weather starts to roll in; so bring your friends, family, and enthusiasm for an excellent experience!

“Stay at one of the area's most historic antebellum plantation homes,” you won’t be disappointed! You’ll marvel at the 19th century gardens and individual cottages on this unique property, still owned by the original family, deep in the heart of Louisiana. You can swim, fish, go for a leisurely stroll, or sit on the porch and enjoy a cold beverage. There’s a treehouse to rent that has a three-level deck that lets you see out at night, and a Jacuzzi that’s perfect for relaxing in nature. 

When you think of Louisiana, one thing that comes to mind is alligators. There are swamps and restaurants that feature the spiny species of reptile, but did you know there’s an annual festival that celebrates it? You’ll enjoy local Cajun cuisine, live music, carnival rides, and much more when you check out the Alligator Festival in Luling.

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Pick a peck of pumpkins at Mrs. Heather’s Pumpkin Patch. Families are welcome and are encouraged to bring the little ones for some great on-the-farm fun. Besides picking pumpkins, you can zip through the trees on the zip line, race a duck, pedal a tractor, find your way through a hay maze, milk a cow, or roll down the hill. Grownups can play a game of horseshoes, take a walk along a nature trail, take great family photos, and pack a picnic lunch to share. 

There is so much culture to experience in New Orleans. However nothing beats the swamp kayak tours put on by the native outdoorsmen over at Wild Louisiana Tours. These tours are truly unique to the area; you won’t find landscapes like these anywhere else. Book one of the famous kayak tours, from the many options available, and get ready to learn about the history and impact of this untouched flora and fauna. These tours are raved about, as you’ll be taken to many hidden spots that otherwise you may never see or learn about. You are encouraged to bring your cameras to this is a photography-friendly activity!

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http://stepoutside.org/article/10-best-outdoor-fall-activities-in-louisiana http://stepoutside.org/article/10-best-outdoor-fall-activities-in-louisiana Fri, 21 Sep 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Stunning Foliage Hikes in Louisiana Along with its swamps and tall cypress trees, Louisiana is home to some truly breathtaking fall foliage. The variety and intensity of color found surrounding some of the excellent hiking trails in the state are awe-inspiring. Each location has a special history. Here are our favorites. 

If you want to see Louisiana at its best in the fall, walk the Caroline Dorman Trail. Part of the Kisatchie National Forest, this trail is over 10 miles of horseback, hiking, or biking. Named after avid Louisiana botanist, artist, author, and conservationist, and the first woman to be hired by the U.S. Forest Department, this beautiful and scenic nature trail isn’t far from Briarwood, Caroline Dorman’s home. Nestled in the northeast part of Natchitoches Parish, the trail and Briarwood are open to the public and represent preserved ecosystems and wildflowers that grow the state. 

Black Bayou Lake is a 1,700-acre lake with nature trails, boardwalks, a pier and observation deck, and nature center, and is one of five wildlife refuges in the state. The swamps that surround the refuge and beautiful cypress and tupelo trees dominate the area and are at their peak in the fall months. Oak, elm, ash, and hickory present brilliant colors, and the refuge is home to alligators, ducks, tree frogs, snakes, herons, and song birds. This is a great place to hike, kayak, or canoe, and you’ll be treated to stunning scenery and plenty of opportunities for great photos.

R.W. Norton Art Gallery in Shreveport, Louisiana, may not sound like the typical place to observe fall foliage, but in addition to the American and European artwork and collection of rare books, it is home to lush gardens and azaleas. Often called “the royalty of the garden,” there are over 15,000 plants that include 100 varieties for your viewing pleasure. There is over 40 acres of magnificently maintained landscape that comes alive with color during all four seasons of the year. This is definitely one of the area’s best kept secrets, and well worth visiting. 

Because Louisiana has a number of resources, including flora and fauna specific to the Mississippi River Delta region of the United States, there are several preserves established to protect and maintain the species and cultural history of the area. The Jean Lafitte National Historical Park is such a place. Visitors can enjoy the trails and canoe tours that meander through the hardwood forests, swamps, and marshes, observing alligators basking in the sun, pelicans diving for fish beneath the water, or attend special events that tell the story of the area. 

Lake Claiborne near Homer, Louisiana, is a 6,400-acre recreational lake in the northwestern part of the state that features a beach area, nature trail, picnic area, and overnight camping. Opened in 1974, the park itself comprises about 643 acres, and is a great place to bring the family. Visitors can stay and play for the day, or spend the night at one of the 87 campsites in this well-maintained area. The area surrounding the lake is ablaze with color in the fall as the leaves of trees change, and there are plenty of opportunities for astounding pictures for the photography buff. There are clean restrooms and showers available, laundry facilities, and the site is handicap accessible. 

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http://stepoutside.org/article/5-stunning-foliage-hikes-in-louisiana http://stepoutside.org/article/5-stunning-foliage-hikes-in-louisiana Wed, 05 Sep 2018 00:00:00 -0500
Camping Done Right: 7 Best Outdoor Stores in Louisiana Whether you’re a veteran outdoorsman or just starting out, having the right gear can make all the difference in the success of failure of your camping experience. Not only do the great outdoor gear stores of Louisiana offer the best in supplies in equipment, but many offer educational opportunities and have a knowledgeable staff that can give you all the necessary tips and tricks. Here are the best outdoor stores for camping gear in the state! 

Offering great and trusted brands like the North Face,  for clothing, tents, sleeping bags, and hiking packs, WindPouch inflatable hammocks, and MSR stoves, the Backpacker in Baton Rouge and Lafayette, Louisiana, is more than just a camping store. They are the premier headquarters for all things outdoors. Open since 1974, the Backpacker has earned the reputation for selection, service, and quality in outdoor gear and offers the exclusive “Price Match Guarantee” that ensures your satisfaction in everything you buy.

Having nutritious, easy-to-prepare meals is essential when you’re out in nature. Lafayette’s LDP Camping Foods has been selling the best since 1991. Find great freeze-dried backpacking and camping good options from brands like AlpineAire, Mountain House, and Backpacker’s Pantry. Not only are these meals easy to travel with and good for you, but they’re also delicious. LDP’s website also offers a variety of resources on where to camp and what other gear to bring, to help you have the best experience. 

Bass Pro Shops is nationally-known for their unique and wilderness-themed stores. Located in Bossier City and Denham Springs, Louisiana, Bass Pro Shops is open every day and has a huge selection of hunting, shooting, fishing, and camping gear as well as clothing for each category. Featuring a great selection of their own brand, Rogue Expedition tents, sleeping bags, and cots, they also carry equipment and supplies for family enjoyment like the kid-friendly hydration bottles from CamelBak, and Coghlan’s food preparation supplies. 

Open every day, the knowledgeable staff at Field & Stream in Lafayette, Louisiana pride themselves on being able to guide you through their experience in your outdoor adventure. Around since 1871, they can help get you ready for a trip with the guys or camping with the family. Time-tested brands that make the best in camping gear, clothing, and safety equipment are featured. Some of these brands include warm men and women’s clothing items from Under Armour, Stansport cooking equipment and coffee pots, and Lifeline First Aid Kits.

Finding the right gear for your outdoor adventure is just as important as picking the right location, and Massey’s Outfitter’s with multiple locations across Louisiana, is the right place to start your journey. From eating utensils from Sea to Summit to the warmth of Marmot sleeping bags and apparel and the soft comfort of an alpaca blanket from Southern Marsh, you don’t have to sacrifice comfort on your camping trip. 

Pack & Paddle in Lafayette, Louisiana, believes that it’s all about the journey. Starting out as a seller of aluminum canoes in 1974, the store now operates as a specialty outfitter for rock climbing, backpacking, family camping, kayaking, fishing, and more. Pack & Paddle is more than just a store, though. They want to help you experience the unique places in Louisiana by providing Western Mountaineering products like sleeping bags and lightweight down comforters and garments, Jetboil portable cooking systems, and Kelty outdoor living gear that’s perfect for the novice or the expert camper. 

Cabela’s has been a mainstay outfitter for camping enthusiasts and lovers of the outdoors since 1961. Not just a shopping store, visiting Cabela’s is a shopping experience. Men and women young and old will find everything they need to enjoy their camping, hunting, fishing, or other outdoor activity. With the philosophy that the customer is No. 1, Cabela’s carries a full line of camping equipment like Intex airbeds and accessories for perfect sleeping, Coleman camping products like sleeping bags and lighted tents to keep you warm and safe at night and Yeti coolers to keep your food and beverages at the perfect temperature. Whether you’re just a beginner or a seasoned camper, you’ll find everything you need for a fun, safe, and successful experience. 

About to spend another months pay in this place. #cabelas #fishing #tackle #spendupbig

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http://stepoutside.org/article/camping-done-right-7-best-outdoor-stores-in-louisiana http://stepoutside.org/article/camping-done-right-7-best-outdoor-stores-in-louisiana Wed, 15 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Gorgeous Beach Campsites in Louisiana White sandy beaches and clear blue water with some of the best fishing spots anywhere await you as you plan your next weekend getaway or family vacation in Louisiana. Choose any of the five gorgeous beach campsites in the state below for an unforgettable experience in America’s Cajun country! 

Located in the heart of Cajun country, this 42-acre family-friendly campground is clean and has a relaxed atmosphere, live music in the barn on Saturdays, beach volleyball, basketball, horseshoes pits, and a one-acre freshwater swimming area. Canoes can be rented, and there are several play areas for kids, picnic sites, and a pavilion for larger groups. You can even pick up a few things that you may have forgotten to bring at the little general store on premise. They have 95 RV sites or you can rent one of the cottages that have a full kitchen. Certain fees apply so check on the website before you go. 

With 87 campsites that include water and electricity, 643-acre Lake Claiborne State Park is a great way to spend your next family vacation. Opened in 1974, this popular campground sits in northwestern Louisiana and has a great beach area, nature trail, plenty of picnic areas with barbecue grills and tables, and your choice of cabins or premium and primitive campsites. The lake is central to the park and is 6,400 acres of fun with swimming, fishing, boating, and waterskiing. This is nature at its best.

Lake D’Arbonne State Park is a fisherman’s dream, and 15,250-acre Lake D’Arbonne is the centerpiece of the park. This very popular camping area is located in a beautifully wooded region of Union Parish and is 655 acres of rolling pine forest. Relaxation is all but guaranteed here, but if you want something a little more active, there’s an extended wooden pier that stretches out into the lake, several trails for hiking, and a swimming pool. Boating and water skiing is permitted, and photographers will find no lack of wonderful scenes to capture along the trails, inclines, and beach area. Overnight guests can stay in one of the cabins, lodges, or occupy a premium or primitive campsite. Fees apply. 

This beautifully wooded state park offers the opportunity to unwind, relax, and step back to simplicity. South Toledo Bend State Park is one of two reservoir parks that welcome overnight guests in cabins furnished with basic cookware, utensils, and linens, or a choice of campsites that range from water and electric provided to primitive. Although the park is among the youngest in the state, it has become a favorite for campers and fishermen, and hosts numerous bass fishing tournaments throughout the year. There are plenty of opportunities for hiking, birding, biking, and other watersports, too. 

There is nothing more stunning than the orange glow of the setting sun reflected in the water of Lake Arthur at Myers Landing in Louisiana. Off the beaten path but well worth the drive, Myers Landing combines the best of all worlds. Quiet and peaceful for those who want their solitude, and there are plenty of things to do who want more adventure. Outdoor activities include boating, swimming, watersports like skiing and tubing, biking, fishing, and miniature golf. The campground has all the modern conveniences of home, but the beauty and serenity of being outdoors. There’s even a quaint general store built in the 1930s where forgotten items can be purchased. Cabins are available or you can park your RV. 

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Ser Borakovskyy/Shutterstock.com http://stepoutside.org/article/5-gorgeous-beach-campsites-in-louisiana http://stepoutside.org/article/5-gorgeous-beach-campsites-in-louisiana Tue, 14 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
4 Beautiful Backpack Camping Spots in Louisiana If you want to enjoy the great outdoors, hiking is a wonderful way to experience the sights and sounds along some of the most picturesque routes in nature. Spending the night brings another perspective to the experience. Overnight campers can wake up to the sounds of birds in the trees above and witness stunning sunrises. Below are the most beautiful backpacking spots Louisiana has to offer. Any one will give you an unforgettable experience seeing nature like never before. 

Chicot State Park is near Ville Platte in the lower central part of Louisiana, and is one of the oldest state parks in the state, being added in 1939. Significant development was done by the Civilian Conservation Corp to this 2,000-acre area in the years that followed, which created the hiking and backpacking trails, picnic areas, and stocked fishing lakes that are enjoyed today. For those who enjoy spending the night in the outdoors, there are several primitive campsites along the 18-mile trail that circles Lake Chicot. Hikers and campers will find magnificent magnolia trees blooming from March to October. Tall cypress trees are also very prevalent in the park and seem to dip their roots in the cool lake water as they stretch up to the sky. Dogs are permitted on the trail, but must be on a leash. 

Kisatchie National Forest is the only national forest in Louisiana and is located in the north-central region of the state. Pines and hardwoods dominate the woody landscape, and there are many rare plants and animals that are specific to the forest. The 8,700-acre Kisatchie Wilderness, where the Backbone Trail is located, is the largest of the three protected areas in this region, and is part of the National Conservation Area. Created by the Civilian Conservation Corps between the Great Depression and World War II, the Backbone Trail is a moderately rated trail with mainly flat and sandy parts. There are several good overlooks along the 7.1-mile trail, and most hikers can complete it in about two hours. Hikers and backpackers will have wonderful caves and canyons to explore, and there are some steep cliffs for those who want to try a little rock climbing. For those staying overnight, there are several campgrounds available, and the Gum Springs Campground is highly rated. Remember to bring your camera and your fishing pole! 

Located on the northern shores of the beautiful and picturesque Lake Pontchartrain near Mandeville, Louisiana, Fontainebleau State Park offers 2,800 acres of nature at its best. Over 400 bird species make this park their home, and visitors have the unique opportunity to see not one, but three different ecosystems because the area is surrounded by water on three sides. Overnight campers will be treated to amazing sunrises, and there are two trails in the park, a 4.8-mile hiking trail and a 1.25-mile nature trail along a boardwalk with viewing platforms. Visitors may want to check out the remains of an old sugar mill built by the founder of Mandeville in 1852.

There are 38,450 acres waiting for avid outdoor enthusiasts and hunters to explore in the National Red Dirt Wildlife Management Preserve, located in Kisatchie National Forest near Natchitoches, Louisiana. Hikers will find challenging trails to be rugged and fairly steep, so caution should be exercised. For those who decide on this area, the beautiful views more than make up for the difficulty getting there. There are designated areas that allow primitive camping between Oct. 1 and April 30, namely Oak Camp, Corral Camp, Coyote Camp, and Curtis Camp. Roadside camping is also permitted, but check with the ranger station to verify which ones are open when you arrive. Certain fees apply, so make sure to find out about those when you stop at the ranger station, too. 

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http://stepoutside.org/article/4-beautiful-backpack-camping-spots-in-louisiana http://stepoutside.org/article/4-beautiful-backpack-camping-spots-in-louisiana Tue, 14 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Awesome Campgrounds for Families in Louisiana Louisiana’s natural beauty is nearly unmatched by any other state in the union. With a diverse geological landscape and unique wildlife aplenty, it’s hard to go wrong with any campsite in Louisiana. Next time you’re planning a family trip, check out these five absolutely awesome campgrounds in Louisiana. 

Fairview-Riverside State Park in Madisonville, Louisiana, opens most days at six a.m. and closes at 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The campgrounds have restrooms and showers, as well as a dump station, group pavilion, laundry, and picnic area. Daily tours are offered, as well as foot accessible walking trails. Stop by the tennis courts for a game or simply enjoy the natural surroundings. The main attraction is the beautiful Tchefuncte River, a popular fishing destination that yields bass, bluegill, white perch, and more. Campsites include 22 premium campsites (known as “prime location sites” and come with water and electrical hookup), 59 improved campsites (water and electrical hookup included) and 20 unimproved campsites (with no electrical or water hookup). Rates change seasonally, so make sure to check the website before planning your vacation.  

The North Toledo Bend State Park in Zwolle, Louisiana, offers a prime view of the Toledo Bend Reservoir, one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the United States. Campers can book Deluxe Cabins for $150 a night on Sunday-Thursday and $175 a night Friday-Saturday, which sleeps up to six. Group camp sites are available, too, for $600 a night, but includes a dining hall and beds for up to 150 people. If you prefer regular camping to in-door cabin lounging, consider the eight premium campsites or 55 improved campsites. Nine-hundred acres of land begs to be explored, and water sports are popular on the reservoir itself.

fruitier and fruitier by the foot

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Fontainebleau State Park in Mandeville, Louisiana, was originally a sugar plantation, but has since been repurposed into a 2,800-acre park on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain, offering prime camping opportunities. Four different kinds of camping are available, including 23 premium campsites (four with sewerage hookups), 103 improved campsites, 37 unimproved campsites, and two primitive group camping areas. Fees vary by campsite and accommodation. Visitors can enjoy a 4.8-mile hike or a 1.25-mile nature trail, as well as bird watching of over 100 different species. 

Enjoy the warm weather and beach at the Grand Isle State Park. The park, located on the Gulf of Mexico, is known for its rip currents, so make sure to prepare ahead of time and check the safety warnings. Unlike other campgrounds on this list, camping at Grand Isle State Park can be a sandy affair. Forty-nine premium campsites area available to rent, along with 14 beach tent campsites for those that can’t get enough of the water. For fun, check out the 2.5-mile nature trail, swim in the water, rent a boat, or go fishing.

Reunion Lake in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, prides itself on setting a new standard for camping. Booking itself as a “Premier RV Resort,” Reunion Lake is not your typical campsite. Whereas the other inclusions on this list are public parks, Reunion Lake is a private, gated RV resort, complete with pools, restrooms, bath houses, bars, and regular events. Stop by the hot tub or spa or try your hand at the putt-putt golf course. Every RV spot has full hookups. Don’t have an RV? Consider booking a poolside cabana. Activities on the lake include kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, and beach volleyball, along with much, much more.

// It's the small things 🌺

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Blend Images/Shutterstock.com http://stepoutside.org/article/5-awesome-campgrounds-for-families-in-louisiana http://stepoutside.org/article/5-awesome-campgrounds-for-families-in-louisiana Mon, 13 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Awesome RV Campsites in Louisiana Louisiana’s magnificent natural landscapes are among the most distinct in America. What better way to experience it than by parking your RV in the middle of it all and camping out? From lakeside spots to sites situated not far from the French Quarter, the Bayou State offers a unique camping experience. Here are five awesome RV campsites in Louisiana.  

Lakeside RV Park in Livingston, Louisiana, takes advantage of its location next to a 17-acre fishing lake. Besides lake access, Lakeside offers tons of amenities, including a large pool, fishing, bath and laundry facilities, open-air pavilions, playground, enclosed dog park, groceries on site, and more. Regular events, like watermelon eating contests and outdoor movie nights, are scheduled for additional entertainment.

Poche Plantation Camping RV Park is situated on 18 acres of the historic, Judge Felix Poche Planation. Protected by the National Register for Historic Places, the space offers tower hook-ups for lighting, cable, TV, and Wi-Fi. Concrete patios, lawn and trash containers come standard with each space. Stop by the pool, hot tub, and flower fountains while you’re on site. Eighty-five spots are available, but make sure to call to book a reservation, just in case. 

River View RV Park and Resort in Vidalia, Louisiana, takes full advantage of its location on the Mississippi River. This year-round RV park has 185 full hook-up sites, with Wi-Fi, pool, clubhouse, hot tub, playground, laundry facilities, showers, and more available on site. Additional camping options include primitive camping and furnished cottages. Gamblers, take advantage of the shuttle service to visit the Magnolia Bluffs Casino. 

Visit 20 acres of Louisiana countryside at Pioneer Acadian Village RV Park and Campground in Breaux Bridge. You’re never too far from Mardi Gras celebrations, the Crawfish Festival, Lake Martin, or any number of other fantastic venues. RV sites include full hook-ups, picnic tables, outdoor pavilions, fire rings, bagged ice, mail service, volleyball, and many other amenities. It’s recommended you make a reservation to ensure a spot, especially during festival season. 

The New Orleans West KOA outpost is open year-round and is “the closest KOA to the French Quarter and the finest food, sassiest jazz, and wildest times in the south.” Shuttles and city buses from the campsite provide easy access to the New Orleans French Quarter and Bourbon Street. Each campsite offers amps, Wi-Fi, cable TV, pool access, and propane. 

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Aleksey Stemmer/Shutterstock.com http://stepoutside.org/article/5-awesome-rv-campsites-in-louisiana http://stepoutside.org/article/5-awesome-rv-campsites-in-louisiana Mon, 13 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Energizing Hikes in Louisiana Have you heard the Chinese proverb that says, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step?” Nothing is truer than when beginning your next hiking adventure. Louisiana might not have the mountains that other U.S. states do, but it has a wild and varied terrain that makes for some of the best hiking around. These hikes are not for the faint-hearted and require a little more endurance than a casual stroll. Here are five energizing hikes in Louisiana. 

Located near St. Francisville, Louisiana, Tunica Hills is over 6,000 acres of hills, bluffs, and ravines, and is composed of two separate land tracks: The North Tract near the Louisiana Penitentiary and the South Tract off Old Tunica Road. It is also part of the Natchez Trace System of trails used since colonial days. Most of the 3.5-mile Tunica Hills C Trail trail is easy to hike and can be finished in one to three hours, but the full five-mile primitive loop is more challenging because there are no shortcuts and parts of the trail are steep. Dogs are welcome to accompany you on the trail. This is a beautiful and peaceful hike, with butterflies and wildflowers in abundance. There are several waterfalls along the way, and the trail is marked well. Bring drinking water and insect repellent, and check for ticks after you’ve completed the trail. Passes may be required, so check with the closest ranger station or online before you start the hike. 

Kisatchie Hills is part of Louisiana’s largest state wilderness area with a total of 8,700 acres, and it is here that hikers will find some of the most challenging trails in the state. Unusual for Louisiana, the terrain includes a steep and rocky landscape, elevated areas, broad, rounded cliffs, and wild residents like black bears, foxes, and otters. There are three main trails in the Kisatchie Hills Wilderness: Backbone, the longest but easiest trail at 7.4 miles, Longleaf Vista, a well-marked trail covering 1.3 miles of scenic views in a deep valley, and High Ridge, an aptly named 1.5-mile spur trail to the Backbone. Dogs are permitted on the trails, but make sure to keep them leashed since you may encounter local wildlife as you hike.

Situated along one of America’s largest man-made reservoirs are over 900 acres of peaceful (and protected) land meant to whisk you away to some of the most beautiful scene’s Mother Nature has to offer. Given that there’s an abundance of water sports, this gets to be a happening area in the warmer months. You will find two trails throughout the park, Trail A being 1.5 miles-long, and Trail B being four miles-long. Nothing will bring people together like a long hike in this beautiful forested area. Reserve a campsite or cabin in the very well maintained campground and thoroughly enjoy everything that this park has to offer!

This bayou in Lacombe, right within the city limits of New Orleans, is what gives Louisiana’s wetlands their magnificent reputation. You won’t be able to put down your camera since there are so many aspects to this historic National Wildlife Refuge’s beauty. Walk through two miles of trails, and become enraptured in the radiant botanical gardens, the banks, and other natural habitats that this vibrant place has to offer.

Also situated in the Kisatchie National Forest, the Kincaid Loop Trail is rated as moderate. Hikers will cut close to and away from the beautiful Kincaid Lake along this trek. Keep in mind that it is also a bike trail, so you’ll be sharing your space. The views of the lake are truly awe-inspiring, making for some excellent photo opportunities. Immerse yourself in the bountiful wildlife on this heart-pumping hike.  

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http://stepoutside.org/article/5-energizing-hikes-in-louisiana http://stepoutside.org/article/5-energizing-hikes-in-louisiana Thu, 09 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
SPOTLIGHT: Things to Do in and Around Palmetto Island State Park One of the newer parks in Louisiana, Palmetto Island State Park in Abbeville is appropriately named for its abundance of beautiful palmettos. Experience the elegance of this park to its fullest by planning a weekend trip. Palmetto Island offers plentiful opportunity for camping and hiking, and the surround area makes for a perfect place to explore. Here are the best things to do in and around Palmetto Island State Park. 

Founded in 2011, and specifically located in Vermilion Parrish, the park is in close proximity to the Vermilion River, which affords those who love to canoeing and kayaking special interest with the many lagoons in the area and access to native animals and plants. The park has a boat launch available for visitors, offers boat rentals, and provides opportunities for fishing, and there are swamp walks and birding activities. The Cypress Trail is an easy 0.7-mile trail that can be hiked and biked. There are also many beautiful overlooks and scenic areas in the park that make great photo opportunities.

Information on the status of the trail is available on the Friends of Palmetto Island State Park including events hosted at the park like the Louisiana Bird Observatory bird banding event held monthly, and other special occasions by local groups. 

Overnight camping is available at the park, and there are minimal entrance fees. The park has six beautiful cabins that can accommodate up to eight people each, 96 RV campsites, a primitive campground, and backcountry campsites for reasonable per-night fees. The cabins are secluded by thick vegetation from other campers, and include a fully operational kitchen, fireplace, and screened porch. There are extra tent pads on 20 of the RV campsites. Open 365 days a year, the park also has a visitors’ center that’s open during the day and available for meetings, reunions, weddings, and other events. The park is the perfect place for family camping with a children’s splash pad, bathhouse, laundry facility, and bathrooms. 

There are many excellent places to eat in the area if you want to try the local cuisine. SHUCKS! The Louisiana Seafood House is a must with its family-style dining and delicious seafood like shrimp, gator, catfish, and crab. And you can’t leave without trying a bowl of one of their famous authentic Cajun gumbo, chowder, or stew. 

For those who enjoy learning about the history of the area, there are several nearby places to satisfy your curiosity. The Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site offers self-guided tours daily and there are examples of local culture that includes Acadian, Creole, Indian, African, French, Spanish, slaves and freemen. 

The Louisiana Military Hall of Fame & Museum has items of interest about those who have served in various military branches in the state. The free museum is open Thursday through Saturday, and group tours are welcome if scheduled ahead of the visit. There are outdoor exhibits and restoration projects in progress, including a chance to see various aircraft and landing crafts up close and personal.

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http://stepoutside.org/article/spotlight-things-to-do-in-and-around-palmetto-island-state-park http://stepoutside.org/article/spotlight-things-to-do-in-and-around-palmetto-island-state-park Thu, 09 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Best Birdwatching Hikes in Louisiana There are few better places for birding than Louisiana. Because of the warm climate and accommodating ecosystems, especially in the southern area, Louisiana is known as a year-long birding state. There are several sanctuaries and wildlife refuges throughout the state that have been established to protect endangered bird species and provide areas for migratory birds to winter and reproduce. Here are the five best birdwatching hikes in the state! 

Much effort has been put into reclaiming abandoned farmland and recreating the forests in the northeast Louisiana Delta area of the state. Several bird and animal species have almost been wiped out, like the ivory-billed woodpecker and black bear because of extensive agricultural and timbering practices. There are now approximately 30 birdwatching sites comprising the Mississippi River Birding Trail that runs through 13 parishes. 

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Pine forests along the Red River Birding Trail are home to a variety of birds and 82 birdwatching sites in northwestern Louisiana. The geography changes dramatically as the river crosses the state boundaries and some of the region’s most unique plants can be found there. 

There are 115 sites along the Gulf Coast region known as America’s Wetland Birding Trail that take birders through every imaginable waterway including lakes, rivers, swamps, bayous, marshes, mudflats, and beaches. Waterfowl are abundant, each in their specific area, and if you venture away from the water, you’ll see an abundance of migrating songbirds in the wooded areas. The trail is organized in 12 specific loops where migratory and native birds can be seen in their habitat. 

The Atchafalaya area is a unique region of the state that features multiple ecosystems from wetlands, hills, and prairies to marshes, swamps, forests, and meadows. The Atchafalaya National Heritage Area contains nearly 400 kinds of birds and has several rookeries for breeding birds. Some of the best areas for birding can be found here, and there are numerous hiking areas along bayous.

There are over seven miles of coastline trails that become home to more than 300 migratory birds from the eastern U.S. in April each year. It would seem as if the trees were alive and moving with the number of birds that perch on the limbs. Shorebirds and seabirds can be seen along the beaches and there are many species that make their home there year-round.  

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http://stepoutside.org/article/5-best-birdwatching-hikes-in-louisiana http://stepoutside.org/article/5-best-birdwatching-hikes-in-louisiana Thu, 09 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
Start Your Trek: 7 Best Hiking Retailers in Louisiana If your idea of a perfect day is trekking through the lush forests of Louisiana, at some point you’re going to need to get some gear. From hiking boots to trekking poles to bug spray, you’ll find everything you’ll need at the great outfitters of Louisiana. Here are our favorites. 

Featuring great brand name products from companies like Patagonia, North Face, Black Diamond, and GSI Outdoors, the Backpacker should be the one-stop shop for all your hiking needs. Located in Lafayette and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the philosophy behind this store’s success has remained the same since opening its doors in 1974. Focused on selection, service, and quality, the Backpacker has grown into the state’s premier outfitter with the largest selection of hiking, camping, skiing, apparel, and outdoor gear. Check out their price match guarantee and save even more. 

Originally founded in Arkansas in 1997, the success of the store led to an opening of the location in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 2013. With the same mission to help people be active and enjoy the great outdoors by offering high-quality products and sharing their extensive experience, they back every product they sell. Besides carrying their own line of products, they also have items from Merrell, Patagonia, Yeti, the North Face, and more. They offer educational opportunities, and their charitable arm, Gearhead Gives, is a community-supporting organization that seeks to carry out their mission statement outside the walls of the store. 

A sporting goods retailer with a focus on apparel and shoes, Hibbett Sports became a publically traded company in 1996 after being in business since 1945. Official retailer for Nike, they have been the recipient of national awards for excellence for many years. Besides having the best inventory of all outdoor activities like hiking, camping, fishing, and backpacking, Hibbett Sports believes in giving back to the community, and they do so by sponsoring organizations like the American Heart Association with charitable donations and fundraisers.

Ever since their opening in 1972, Massey’s has been selling great gear and apparel that support your outdoor adventures with a focus on non-competitive recreational activities like hiking, camping, skiing, backpacking, kayaking, and canoeing. Stocking nationally-recognized brands that are the best in the industry like Patagonia, Osprey, and the North Face, the focus shifted to specializing in the products needed by hikers and backpackers at this location.

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What started out as a working man’s clothing and accessories store in the early 1900s became a place over the next 100 years as a store that specializes in clothing and outdoor apparel for big and tall men. With great brand names like Dickies, Columbia, and more, the store is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

If you love exploring outdoors and are looking for a source of equipment, gear, and apparel for your next hiking, backpacking, fishing, rock climbing, camping, or boating adventure, stop by Pack & Paddle in Lafayette, Louisiana. What started as a backyard effort selling canoes in 1974 has grown to a store of over 6,000 square-feet that has a great selection of outdoor products from companies like Eagle Creek, Patagonia, and Salomon. Not sure what you need? No problem. The staff at Pack & Paddle have the experience and knowledge that will get you going with helpful workshops on topics like how to purchase the right equipment and where the best spots around the state are for hiking and camping. They also sponsor outdoor adventures and private trips. 

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Southeast Louisiana Scout Shop, located in Metairie, Louisiana, is an official retailer for the Boy Scouts of America, and carries everything from uniforms and apparel, to literature, crafts, gifts, and gear and equipment for hiking and camping. Featuring great and trusted brands like Eagles Nest Outfitters Sawyer, and more, Southeast Louisiana Scout Shop carries a full line of men’s, women’s, and youth products and educational adventure literature.

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http://stepoutside.org/article/start-your-trek-7-best-hiking-retailers-in-louisiana http://stepoutside.org/article/start-your-trek-7-best-hiking-retailers-in-louisiana Thu, 09 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Great Hiking Trails in Louisiana Hiking in Louisiana is unlike hiking anywhere else in the country. Witness the majestic wildlife that live in the deltas, marshes, and swamps throughout the region. Go bird watching like John J. Audubon or take in the diverse flora and fauna. Whether you’re a nature nut, an experienced hiker, or simply want to go on a stroll with the family, you’ll find fantastic opportunities throughout the state. Check out five great options below. 

The Louisiana State Arboretum in Ville Platte, Louisiana, is one of the most gorgeous natural areas in the entire region. The arboretum is part of Chicot State Park, and offers trails for hikers of all experience levels. Beginners can peruse the Wetland Trail, which is only .7 miles, whereas more experienced hikers will enjoy the 20-mile trail that surrounds the lake. The oldest state-supported arboretum in the United States, it is home to over 150 unique plant species, and diverse wild-life.

The Wild Azalea Trail in Woodworth, Louisiana, cuts through the scenic Kisatchie National Forest. The entire trail is almost 31 miles-long, which makes for an intense 16-hour hiking experience for those so inclined to experience the entire route, or a series of bountiful nature walks for those more interested in shorter sojourns. A recreation area, shelters, and drinking water facilities are sprinkled along the trail, providing opportunities for refreshment. The trail is typically rated as moderate and is known for its incredible wild flowers. 

The Barataria Preserve is part of the greater Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve, which covers much of the Mississippi River Delta region. The Barataria Preserve is closest to Marrero, Louisiana, and offers a four-mile trail that is perfect for hikers of all ages. Wildflowers, swamp, and alligators await.

Day off in New Orleans. Great opportunity for a quick stroll @ the Barataria Preserve!

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Gorge Run Trail cuts through the relatively new Bogue Chitto State Park. Dogs are welcome on this six-mile, moderate trail, but must be kept on a leash. Each entrant to the park must pay $3. The trail is a loop near a lake, which adds to the scenic beauty. Try to avoid visiting just after a heavy rain, as the bogs may become too deep to properly enjoy the hike. Terrain types include beach, pine, gravel, and gorge. 

Originally a railroad trail, the Tammany Trace Trail has been repurposed into a regular hiking path covering over 30 miles. According to the Tammany Hall official website, the trailhead “resembles an old-fashioned railroad station and includes a covered waiting platform, a clock tower, a band stand, a sloped, grassy, shaded audience area, restrooms, water fountains, visitor center, exhibit hall and small movie theater.” The train itself winds through a 27.5-mile corridor and stretches from Covington through four other towns. The elevation is nice and easy, and will work for hikers of all levels. 

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iStock.com/Sasha_Suzi http://stepoutside.org/article/5-great-hiking-trails-in-louisiana http://stepoutside.org/article/5-great-hiking-trails-in-louisiana Wed, 08 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Beautiful Scenic Hikes in Louisiana Louisiana boasts some of the most gorgeous hiking trails in the country, with diverse animal and plant life in any number of locales. It’s nearly impossible to narrow down all of Louisiana’s possible hiking routes to the five most beautiful, but we’ve compiled our favorites, picked for a variety of different hikers. Whatever you prefer, you’re sure to find a hike to enjoy below.  

Hike the six-mile Gorge Run Trail through Bogue Chitto State Park for a moderately difficult time. The hike is surrounded by forest with a nice river along the path. Make sure to pay attention to the weather, though, as recent rains can make the river overflow and make your hike much more treacherous. Don’t leave home without your bug spray.

If you’re in the mood for a longer hike, the 20-mile Lake Chicot Loop might be for you. While it’s open year-round, most suggest visiting between March and October. Total elevation gain is almost 1,200 feet, which can make it difficult for some, but there are sections of the trail that have very little elevation gain and could be quite easy for others. Beware of the deer flies, and consider the weather before heading out: The heat can be oppressive.

There are several trails in the Jean Lafitte area that are easily accessible to those in a wheelchair or families with small children. Among those that are accessible are the half-mile Bayou Coquille Trail, the .4-mile Marsh Overlook Trail, the .25-mile Visitor Center Trail, and more. The dirt and gravel hiking trails are the .4-mile Wood Duck Trail, the 1.8-mile roundtrip Plantation Trail (loop), the 1.4-mile roundtrip Old Barataria Trail, and the .6-mile Twin Canals. Keep an eye out for birds, fishing, and wild flowers along the way.   

This 10.5-mile horseback riding, hiking, and biking trail is situated within the immaculate Kisatchie National Forest. This trail can be described as moderate, so those with very minimal experience may want to come prepared. The elevation gain does not exceed 800 feet and this is also a common birding area. Bring your binoculars! 

This park near Bastrop, Louisiana, is among the most beautiful in the state. Chamin-A-Haut overlooks Bayou Bartholomew and is described as a “natural paradise for lovers of unspoiled beauty.” While there, check out the 1.1-mile Bobcat Trail or the quarter-mile Boy Scout Trail. None of these trails are too long, but be sure to always come prepared! 

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imagevixen/Shutterstock.com http://stepoutside.org/article/5-beautiful-scenic-hikes-in-louisiana http://stepoutside.org/article/5-beautiful-scenic-hikes-in-louisiana Wed, 08 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Exhilarating Jet Skiing Spots in Louisiana Louisiana is one of the most prized backdrops in the U.S., with its lagoons, lakes, swamps, and rivers offering picturesque views for your next jet skiing adventure. It doesn’t matter if you’re experienced or not, or if you own your own watercraft or not, Louisiana has you covered. Check out the following adrenaline-pumping jet skiing spots in the state.  

False River is an over 3,000-acre river in Pointe Coupee Parish near Baton Rouge. The river is around 11 miles-long, and provides a picturesque getaway to bring the jet ski out on the water. Be warned: the calm river attracts lots of visitors, including boaters, anglers, and other jet skiers, so make sure you watch out before you try any sick moves. 

The Dock at Slidell in Slidell, Louisiana, is a fantastic access point to the Grand Lagoon, a nearby lake with mostly calm waters. Stock up on marine supplies, bait, fuel, and more at the Dock before setting out on your jet ski to explore the peninsula. You’ll find lots of restaurants around the lagoon to stop at, refill, and catch your breath before heading back out again.

Cross Lake is incredibly close to Shreveport, Louisiana, making it a boating and jet skiing destination. Try the free public boat launches on the north or south sides of the lake. While you’re on the water, keep an eye out for pelicans, bald eagles, bufflehead duck, bass, and baby alligators, along with other wildlife. The lake is situated next to a neighborhood, so try to stay mindful of the people that live there.

Caddo Lake is one of the most famous lakes in the United States, made famous by movies such as “The Bayou Boys,” “Universal Soldier,” and “Big John.” The lake covers almost 27,000 acres and straddles the Texas-Louisiana state line. Jet skiers of exceptional talent and experience will find the lake to be a challenge, but the payoff to be worth it. The many potential hazards, including moss, lily pads, and cypress trees, will make you want to go slow while you explore.

Toledo Bend also straddles the Texas-Louisiana border, and is the largest man-made lake in the region. Many sections of the lake are available for the public to enjoy, whether you prefer to water ski, go out on the boat, jet ski, water raft, or boogie board. The entire area is a natural paradise, with opportunities to get out on ATVs, biking, birding, camping, canoeing, golfing, hiking, horseback riding, and much more. Toledo Bend is well-worth a few days. 

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Alexander Zamaraev /Shutterstock.com http://stepoutside.org/article/5-exhilarating-jet-skiing-spots-in-louisiana http://stepoutside.org/article/5-exhilarating-jet-skiing-spots-in-louisiana Tue, 07 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500