Palmetto Island State Park’s very name hints at the untamed wildness you can expect in this southern corner of the state. Palmettos, those shaggy, tropical trees found all over the swamps, grow alongside tall cypress and other Louisiana native plants, giving the park an air of authenticity — this is as unspoiled as south Louisiana gets. Along with Bogue Chitto State Park, this is the newest addition to Louisiana’s state park system.
The Vermilion River runs through the Palmetto Island State Park. The most scenic way of reaching the river is via a boat launch near the center of the park, which also offers canoeists and kayakers easy access to narrow channels and tucked-away lagoons. Canoes are available for rent by the hour or day.
Though the waterways here are the main attraction, the .7-mile-long Cypress Trail also allows visitors a close-up look at Palmetto Island State Park’s jungle-like ecology. At the nearby visitor center, you’ll find a water playground and bathhouse, and six cabins that give overnight guests a front-row seat to the symphony of native animal calls emerging from the swamps.
Outside of Palmetto Island State Park you’ll find even more opportunities to dive into Cajun culture. The nearby town of Abbeville is home to the Abbeville Cultural and Historical Museum & Art Gallery, the Sam Guarino Blacksmith Shop Museum and the Louisiana Military Hall of Fame. Nature lovers seeking more of the swamps should add Cypremort Point State Park and White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area to their itineraries — White Lake is an especially popular spot among birdwatchers.
Entrance fee: $3 per person; free for seniors age 62 and older, and children age 3 and younger.