Hidden in the piney woods of the Mississippi Delta in northeast Louisiana is a tiny but sparkling jewel of the Louisiana State Parks system. Lake Bruin State Park offers a serene camping getaway on an oxbow lake created when the Mississippi River changed its course 500 years ago. Cypress trees, some nearly as old as the lake, create a peaceful environment for fishing, camping or just enjoying nature. A weekend camping trip was a perfect break from school and work for my family of three.
After setting up camp, we wandered toward the lakefront area, which is popular for picnics and lounging in the massive cypress trees’ shade. So, of course, we each settled in with a good book—as well as the ever-present DS3 for my tween son—and enjoyed the view of the lake. It is a perfectly serene setting!
I found out that the park’s beautiful setting, including the 1960s brick pavilion, has also served as a romantic venue for weddings. The piers have also been a popular place for marriage proposals. One frequent guest proposed to his first wife on one of the piers and then visited the park annually until she died. The 91-year-old veteran continues to visit with his current wife, children and grandchildren and is known to zip around the lake on a personal watercraft.
The park property was donated to the state by the Debusant family in the early 1920s. The state operated the area as a Department of Wildlife and Fisheries fish hatchery until the late 1940s, when the property was turned over to the Louisiana Parks Commission. The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries still stocks Lake Bruin with bass, bream and white perch, sometimes called sac-a-lait or crappie.
The remains of the old fish hatchery can still be seen if you know where to look. The park’s main road was built on top of the existing levee and its campsites are set in what used to be the hatchery ponds’ beds. The restrooms are built on land that was once an alligator pond that continued operation after the Louisiana Parks Commission took over the property. An interesting piece of architecture, the water control for the main hatchery pond still exists in the picnic area. The 9-foot tall concrete structure, with visible grooves where wood planks were inserted to control water flow, has been dubbed Frankenstein’s Gravestone by the locals.
Obviously, fishing is the park’s main draw. Local clubs host tournaments during the spring and summer. While most oxbow lakes aren’t great for fishing, the Mississippi River’s currents left Lake Bruin with a depth and sand bed biologically well equipped for fish. My husband regretted not making room in the car for his fishing rods.
Lake Bruin State Park, located just 4 miles north of St. Joseph, offers overnight camping as well as picnic areas for day-use visitors. For more information about the park, visit LaStateParks.com.