Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Revisiting the Calcasieu

By the time the Calcasieu River reaches the city of Lake Charles, man has tamed much of its natural character. The banks of Lake Charles proper host a casino, a civic center, a marina, and a collection of grand homes. And the river itself has turned tidal and brackish, courtesy of the deep water ship channel which follows its course all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. The fishing here can be good, but for speckled trout and red-fish rather than bass. But not too far upstream, at places like Sam Houston Jones State Park, the more natural character of the river still shines through.

The park is a great place to picnic, to feed the ducks, or to wander the wooded trails through glades of long leaf pines and various hardwoods. Visits here were a staple of my childhood. Often we'd come by boat, launching at Lake Charles, passing the Salt Water Barrier, and then following the cypress-lined channel upstream to the park.

On my most recent visit to Louisiana we made it back up to the park for the first time in many years. Time appears to have largely healed the scars left by Hurricane Rita and the park was green and vibrant.

Just inside the park entrance we saw a cotton-tailed rabbit foraging beside of the road, unconcerned by our presence. Next a deer wandered out to look us over - apparently looking for a handout.

Once we finished a driving loop through the park we left the car behind and walked a trail around the pond. The nutria and alligators hid from us, but we saw a few wading birds in the pond and numerous squirrels and birds in the surrounding woods.

After the walk we settled down for a picnic by the river. A squirrel arrived on the scene, hoping to capitalize on any unwanted (or just unattended) dainties. A collection of love bugs and ants tried to crash the party but we did our best to un-invite them. By the time lunch was finished, we decided the occasional hints of breeze weren't enough to compensate for the growing heat and we packed up for the air conditioned drive home. Still I was glad to revisit an old friend, even on a rather toasty late summer day.

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