Southwest Louisiana’s sole state park, Sam Houston Jones, is notable for its unimpeded expanses of pine and cypress forests. In the years since it was founded, park administrators have made it a priority to leave much of the preserve in its natural state. As such, it’s become a save haven for a variety of wildlife, including more than 200 species of birds that migrate through the area.
The park was named for two men with similar names. Sam Houston Jones, Louisiana’s 46th governor, received the honor after working tirelessly to establish the park in 1944. The park also commemorates the accomplishments of Sam Houston, the Texas and Tennessee governor who traveled extensively in this stretch of Louisiana over 150 years ago.
Tree-filled lagoons and mixed pine and hardwood forests await both avid and casual hikers. Choose from one of five trails, including one leading to a historical stagecoach road. Along the way, you may be fortunate to glimpse some of the park’s abundant wildlife. Just don’t get too close — alligators and snakes are protective of their space, though harmless if left alone. At the entrance to the Longleaf Pine Trail, you’ll find a well-maintained 18-hole disc golf course.
Sam Houston Jones State Park also offers visitors numerous chances to get out on the water. Two boat launches have been constructed for boaters’ convenience, allowing access to the west fork of the Calcasieu River and Lake Charles 10 miles south.
There are plenty of camping options at Sam Houston Jones State Park. Listen to the sounds of the swamp from one of eight cabins. The deluxe lodge, with a sleeping capacity of 14, works great for group travelers. More than 50 RV spots are onsite, as well as tent campsites with water and electrical hookups.
The shops, restaurants, museums and historic districts of Lake Charles are a 15-minute drive from the park entrance. Other nearby attractions include the Creole Nature Trail Scenic Byway (which takes visitors through prime bird- and wildlife-watching territory and to Holly Beach on the Gulf of Mexico), South Toledo Bend State Park and Cameron Prairie, Sabine, Lacassine and Rockefeller national wildlife refuges.
Entrance fee: $3 per person; free for seniors age 62 and older, and children age 3 and younger.