The Bonnet Carre Spillway is a project by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to alleviate flooding along the Mississippi River in the urban New Orleans area. It has been opened to waterflow on 11 occasions following its construction in 1931. In other times, however, the land in the spillway is a type of environmental no man's land that has given rise to a somewhat natural urban island out of which intrepid cyclists have constructed a network of riding trails.
Built and maintained primarily as a somewhat-technical cycling trail with obstacles, plank berms, jumps, and a meandering course that makes the most of the narrow tract of land it has to work with, the Spillway Trail is also a hiking destination for those seeking a nearby jaunt into a swamp environment.
At about 4.8 miles, the trail parallels a stretch of water popular with small fishing boats for a distance of about 2 miles from the parking area (which also serves a boat launch and parking for the Bonnet Carre Spillway Campground). From there, it curves, whips and meanders back through loosely dense vegetation over a mostly flat course that has a few drops and embankments. At times, trails split, giving riders and hikers the option of a few different courses, though the narrow strait of land between Upper Levee Road and the water ensure that getting turned around would be a very unlikely option.
Riders are instructed to ride the course in a clockwise direction, hikers are advised to go the in the opposite direction to have a little more awareness of oncoming cyclists. Roots and hazards tend to be marked in bright paint. In the late afternoon, the drier areas further to the north become busy with armadillo searching the vegetation for a meal. While hazards tend to be marked, plank bridges and berms tend to rot and break pretty quickly in the wet environment, and large puddles can accumulate in the flat basin. It may be a good idea to do a slow run of the course the first time around. The course is closed to riders altogether in wet conditions.
Outhouses and benches are located at the boat launch area. Look for the first right and proceed about 100 feet to the edge of the trees after descending from the Levee Road to reach the trailhead.