Kisatchie National Forest

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Kisatchie National Forest Overview

Most people would think bayou when asked to picture a Louisiana landscape, but this is not an entirely accurate picture of the Kisatchie National Forest in the northern and central precincts of the state. The 600,000-acre forest, split into six separate tracts, has several areas—notably the Caney and Kisatchie Districts—that are located in hilly, pine-strewn terrain. Some of the hills and mesas in the Kisatchie Ranger District qualify as steep and rocky, although none are more than 400 feet high.

As you enter the central region, you hit more flat and rolling woodland. Here, bald cypress trees hang down like curtains along eerily tranquil bayous. Nearby, trails snake into deep, dark, piney forests, offering glimpses of characteristic southern-swampland wildlife—armadillos, raccoons, even alligators.

The first inhabitants of Kisatchie country were Indians of the Caddo and Natchez groups; kisatchie is an Indian word meaning "long cane" and is probably Caddo Indian in origin. French and Spanish explorers followed the Indians, but after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, people from many origins moved into the area and farming assumed an economic importance that lasted until the early 1900s, when extensive logging began. Though much of the forest was devastated by logging during the Depression, this land has been reforested and the only traces of this era are the mills and railroad beds hidden within the lush longleaf pine.

Today, the Kisatchie's bottomland swamps, meadows, and piney woods are recreation central for Louisianans, offering more than 40 developed recreation sites and over 100 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding, along with ample opportunities for camping, picnicking, swimming, fishing, boating, hunting, off-highway vehicle use, nature study, and sightseeing.

Backpack along the Wild Azaleas
Between the months of March and April, the Wild Azalea National Recreation Trail is magnificently overflowing with southern pink azalea blooms and winter-white dogwood. Its 31 miles also claim the title of Louisiana's longest trail, though its easily traveled path is perfect for a family hike. In case you are not interested in trekking across all 31 miles, the trail is divided into sections. Campsites are accessible along the way.

Fish the Caney Lakes
Located in northern Louisiana, the Caney Lakes Recreation Area includes 391 acres covered with great fishing lakes. The lakes' supply of bass, crappie, bluegill, sandbass, and catfish makes for particularly good fishing in both the spring and autumn seasons. Other terrific local fishing can be found at nearby Corney Lake, Stuart Lake in the Catahoula Ranger District, and Kincaid and Valentine Lakes in the Calcasieu Ranger District.

Float the Saline Bayou
Grab the opportunity to canoe down one of the few undisturbed hardwood bottomland bayous still remaining in Louisiana. Looming cypress trees dangle from the shores, giving your ride the traditional mysterious quality associated with the Louisiana marshland.

Watch Southern Wildlife
The forest's variety of ecosystems allows for an array of wildlife. Alligators, snakes, wood ducks, mink, and pileated woodpeckers are only a few of the unusual species that the Kisatchie has to offer its visitors. Make sure you don't miss the Kisatchie Hills Wilderness, which is also a great spot to find diverse southern animal life.

Camp Beaver Dam
Beaver Dam Camp is pleasantly sheltered by pines and hardwoods. Here, scenery is at its best and Louisiana outdoor recreation is at its finest—the bayous and ponds offer plenty of water activity and the nearby forest includes a wide selection of trail opportunities. The blazing colors of the Caney Lakes area add a special touch to autumn camping in this area.

Move on to U.S. National Forest Campground Guide

Horseback Ride the Caroline: Dormon Horse Trail
Named after one of the leaders of the forest's establishment in 1930, this horse trail meanders through the Kisatchie Ranger District for 12 miles of easy riding over rolling hills from Longleaf Trail to the Kisatchie Bayou Camp. Along the way, watch for endangered species such as the red-cockaded woodpecker and other rare birds. It is located in the Longleaf Scenic Area, where other trails and campgrounds can be found.

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