North Louisiana is sportsman's playground, outdoor paradise
Rolling hills and lush forests mark the delightful outdoors playground that is north Louisiana.
The region stretches from the Texas border and Toledo Bend Reservoir in the west to the mighty Mississippi River in the east. In between lie peaceful lakes, seven state parks and plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities and exploration. People come here for freshwater fishing, golf, hiking, boating and hunting. But Sportsman’s Paradise offers more: It’s also home to two of Louisiana’s larger urban areas, Shreveport-Bossier City, Ruston and Monroe-West Monroe, cities that each offer nightlife and arts, fine dining and shopping.
French hunters and trappers roamed these forests and waterways in the 1700s, but North Louisiana was an important center of commerce long before that. The earthen mounds at Poverty Point are remnants of a highly civilized Native American culture that flourished between 1600 and 1100 B.C. Centuries later, trade – and the discovery of oil, around the turn of the 20th century – invigorated Shreveport, which today is a bustling, metropolitan area.
Hunting, birding, biking or just drifting down a lazy stream: Whatever outdoor activity suits you, Sportsman’s Paradise can oblige. Seven state parks offer beautiful vistas, swimming, boating, clear lakes teeming with largemouth bass, campsites and some of the state’s best birding. Rent a canoe or kayak to explore on your own, or take to the biking and hiking trails to explore the woods, including the beautiful hills of Kisatchie National Forest. The 10-mile course at Lincoln Parish Park, near Ruston, is considered one of the top 25 mountain biking trails in the nation. And a canoe trip through the moss-laden cypress swamp on Caddo Lake is an unforgettable experience.
For a different kind of only-in-Louisiana encounter, spend some time at Gator and Friends Alligator Park and Exotic Zoo in Greenwood. At Delhi’s High Delta Safari Park, hundreds of exotic animals roam free on 2,000 acres. You can explore by airboat or wagon tours, as well as in your own vehicle.
For most of its history, North Louisiana’s economy has relied on agriculture, as well as oil and gas exploration. To get insight into two very different agricultural experiences, visit the Winter Quarters State Historic Site, an antebellum plantation where a wealthy family ran a 2,000-acre cotton and dairy farm, and take a drive along rural Highway 151 from Calhoun to Arcadia.
The scenic byways of North Louisiana amble through thick forests and rolling farmlands, passing through quaint towns that harken to earlier times. The Louisiana Main Street program is restoring and revitalizing downtowns in several communities, including Ruston, Minden, Springhill and Winnsboro. The Louisiana Military Museum in Ruston honors more than 150 years of war, and the Germantown Colony Museum recounts Minden’s little-known religious and communal history.
In the Northeast, the quiet lumber town of Bastrop has restored the facades of many downtown businesses that flank the domed Morehouse Parish Courthouse, a handsome Beaux Arts building that dates to 1914. And in Columbia, once an important steamship landing on the Ouachita River, the Main Street program has helped rehabilitate 40 historic buildings. The centerpiece is the Schepis Building, a 1916 Italianate structure that now houses a museum.