Kisatchie National Forest maintains the largest swaths of woodlands in Louisiana, and the Saline Bayou corridor is among the most isolated of these. Drifting beneath a canopy of huge cypress and tupelo trees, you will hear only bird calls, breezes in the leaves, and the lapping of your own paddle in the water. A 19-mile reach of Saline Bayou is a National Wild and Scenic River, which means it is free-flowing stream (no dams or impoundments) with special protection for conservation. There are few access points, but that makes it easy to get deep into the woods and lose signs of civilization.
The best places to start are near Goldonna at either the campground in Cloud Crossing Recreation Area or downstream at Pearfield Boat Launch, both of which are managed by the Forest Service. It is approximately 3 miles between the two, so you can set shuttle for a one-way trip of this distance. The bayou can be paddled in either direction at normal flows, however. When it overflows its banks after heavy rains, it can still be enjoyed, but high flows make navigation and maneuvering more difficult. Currents are stronger, and the water spreads out over variable terrain. The Saline Bayou Hiking Trail also travels in between Cloud Crossing and Pearfield Launch, presenting a fun alternative way to see the forest. Many miles downstream is Saline Lake, a reservoir on the bayou below the Wild and Scenic section. It is possible to travel this far in a long day or an overnight trip, and boat ramps on the lake provide shuttle options.
Note: Be aware of hunting seasons in Kisatchie National Forest, especially when venturing far from roads, and use appropriate precautions.
This paddle adventure was equipped by and published in collaboration with Bote Boards.