There is only one national forest in Louisiana (Kisatchie National Forest), and it has a limestone cave feature that is unique to the area. It is accessed by an easy trail, shown below. When I am out hiking, I like to get photos of people walking the trails under overhanging rock ledges, so I asked the person behind me to snap this photo of me, (since I was not quick enough to get someone in front of me to pose for a photo.)
There was a spacious parking lot at the trailhead for Wolf Rock Cave, that easily accommodated our large motorcoach. And in a true gesture of Louisiana hospitality, the forest service had a table of snacks and beverages for us, as well as a clean port-o-potty with hand-washing facilities. This was a welcome sight, as the cave is located several miles off the pavement, on a gravel, forest service road.
A very popular town in this area is Natchitoches (pronounced Nack-a-tish). Since the name of the town is not pronounced the way it is spelled, I thought it was very helpful that there was a big sign in the visitor center that explained the pronunciation, and also a map on the wall that shows Natchitoches is just a short drive into Louisiana, from the southern border of Arkansas!
I saw the photo below on the local college (Northwestern State University) social media page, recognizing their Women's 4+ rowing team that brought home the championship in a rowing competition in May, 2021.
The city of Natchitoches, whose tagline is "Louisiana's Oldest City", has numerous types of lodging, and these are listed on their website at www.Natchitoches.com, or you can phone their office directly at 1-800-259-1714. Some of the lodging properties are directly on the waterfront, such as "CanDi on the Cane Guesthouse", pictured below:
The Cane River Lake was formed whenever the Red River shifted its course, brought on by a gigantic, 160-mile-long, log jam, causing an oxbow lake to form. The massive log jam was known as "The Great Raft". In the 1830's, "snag boats" started trying to clear the log jam raft. But soon after the raft was cleared, the meandering river began to change the course of its main channel. The result was a new channel which cut across a bend , over four miles north of Natchitoches. Afterwards, steamboat access to Natchitoches was difficult, and ultimately impossible. By the beginning of the 20th century, dams were built to separate the old channel from the new, thus forming "Cane River Lake". So now, the body of water that passes through downtown Natchitoches is a lake, but has the characteristics of a stream. It averages only about 250 feet in width. The use of dams to control the depth and "current" of the lake made it possible for the city of Natichitoches to open up a beautiful, renovated riverfront part in 2017, that is less prone to flooding.
Kayaks, both those powered by paddles, and those powered by foot pedals, are available for rent in downtown Natchitoches at the Cane River Paddle and Pedal Concession. They also rent standup paddleboards, You can find out more by phoning them at 318-527-0066. I am posting these photos of paddling possibilities in this area, in hopes of inspiring my kayaking buddies to come on a group trip to this area!
If you look at the photo below, I hope you will notice the bold architectural statement made around the ascending staircase. This is the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum, that is known as much for its stunning architecture, as its historic exhibits. You can read about the history of the area by visiting www.LouisianaStateMuseum.org
Another attraction you will not want to miss when you are in Natchitoches, is the Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site, one of three state historic sites in the area.
Another reason this would be a good trip for those who enjoy paddle sports, is that there is a popular lake in Natchitoches, called Sibley Lake (shown here). Whenever I saw the kayaks on the shore at the restaurant where we dined, I was visualizing a "repeat performance" of a paddling excursion our kayaking group took in Gulf Shores, Alabama. We started our adventure on a canal near our lodging property, and then paddled about a mile, to a popular restaurant along the waterfront, stowing our kayaks on the shore---similar to the ones shown in the photo I took. We had a delicious seafood lunch, then worked off the calories by paddling back to our launch site! It was a fun experience!
My photos and comments in this article have barely scratched the surface of the numerous activities that await you when you visit the southwest section of Louisiana, known as "No Man's Land"! You can find out more from their website by visiting www.VisitNoMansLand.com and for information about other areas of Louisiana, check out www.LouisianaTravel.com or phone the Louisiana Department of Tourism at 225-342-9282. I predict a visit to these charming locations will give you "MILES OF SMILES"!!