The Creole Nature Trail and All-American Byway is one of 43 designated Scenic Byways in the U.S. and the only one in Louisiana. It travels through southwest Louisiana, passes areas of recreational, cultural and environmental significance, and allows travelers to visit a variety of places with educational and historical value to Louisianans as well as Cajun and Creole communities.
Traveling along the Creole Nature Trail allows visitors to see the shipping channels that have helped influence the industrial and commercial past of the state, the protected marshes and wetlands that provide important habitat for hundreds of species of native and migratory waterfowl and songbirds, the Gulf Shore beach communities where sunbathing and wading along the state's sparsely-populated coast is an option, and the fishing and crabbing opportunities in some of the state's smaller bayous and marsh-lined coves.
The byway follows a non-linear route through a region known as "Louisiana's Outback," which covers 180 miles. It is a route that can be driven in approximately four hours without stops, and it can take a couple of days for those looking to take their time and indulge in the hikes, visitor centers, fishing opportunities, beach lounging, and small-town eateries located along the way. Heading in a counterclockwise direction beginning in the town of Sulpher on Interstate 10 at the Creole Nature Trail Adventure Point, here is a short list of some of the recreational opportunities along the way:
- Creole Nature Trail Adventure Point (2740 Ruth Street, Sulpher LA 70665 | 337.502.4358): This makes a natural starting point to a visit to the Creole Nature Trail as it is a visitor center with displays, brochures and friendly staff full of information about the byway. Children can check out the interactive displays.
- Blue Goose Nature Trail: This is a 1-mile out-and-back hike through the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge that follows a canal to the edge of Calcasieu Lake. There is also an observation tower and interpretive signage here.
- Sabine National Wildlife Refuge Wetland Walk: A 1.5-mile ADA-friendly loop trail across a wide flat boardwalk that heads into the marshes of the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge. Birds, waterfowl, turtles and alligators can all be seen under the right conditions along this trail.
- Peveto Woods Sanctary: This is a piece of land set aside as a sanctuary for local and migrating birds and butterflies. Walking through the live oak groves is peaceful as the sound of the Gulf surf fills the air.
- Rutherford Beach: A long sandy shore at the end of a road that passes through protected marshes and nesting areas. This is a perfect location for an afternoon of swimming or an evening walk along the beach.
- Rockefeller Wildlife Refgue: Largely unaccessible to the public, this is one of the most biologically diverse wildlife refuges in the country, and it is definitely worth a visit under the right conditions. Birds and waterfowl abound here, and can be seen easily from the quiet roads through the refuge.
- Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge: Boasting its own visitor center to aid in providing information for this and other refuges, Cameron Prairie also has opportunities for driving a loop road or walking a boardwalk trail to view the birds and alligators that live in its marshes and prairie land.
- Lake Charles Visitor Center (1205 N Lakeshore Dr, Lake Charles, LA 70601 | 337.436.9588): Located in Lake Charles, this visitor center can provide information about the Creole Nature Trail as well as other recreational opportunities in the area. It is an essential stop for those visiting the area looking for information on what southwest Louisiana has to offer.
For more information about the Creole Nature Trail and All-American Byway, visit CreoleNatureTrail.org