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Beaches, Boudin and Birding along the Creole Nature Trail

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By Wayne Lazarus on November 2nd, 2010

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

One of the most unique cultures in the United States if found inna — with its mix of Old South, Creole and Cajun heritage. The 180-mile Creole Nature Trail, an All American Road in the Southwest part of the state, provides a picturesque window of the land, the wildlife and the food.

P1030200This outdoorsman’s paradise has fishing, duck-hunting and one of the best bird-watching ares in the country. If that’s not your idea of relaxation, there are also 23 miles of the Gulf Coast’s beautiful white beaches. I visited after the 2010 BP spill and the beaches are pristine and the seafood succulent. Don’t be shy about stopping at little non-descript stores and asking about their boudin. (PronouncedĀ  boo-dan.) Many have been making this traditional sausage-like mixture of cooked meat (pork, shrimp, crawfish or other) and seasonings from an old family recipe for decades. Boudin balls are deep fried — and can be addictive.P1030194

The Creole Nature Trail runs along both sides of Lake Calcasieu (pronounced cal-ca-shoo) through cow pastures, coastal prairies, rice and soybean fields, further south into the marshes. You’re liable to catch a parade of crabs crossing the road, alligators sunning beside the canals and maybe even Sandhill Cranes on their way south. Those rice fields, by the way, double as crawfish farms after the rice is harvested.

P1030199There are a number of places to get out of the car and get a closer look. The Sabine National Wildlife Refuge, which reaches the 30 or so miles to Texas, has a one-and-a-half mile boardwalk stretching into the marsh. Look for nutria, coons and otter. The Peveto Woods Bird and Butterfly Sanctuary is visited annually by two million migratory birds. Within the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge is the highest density of nesting alligators in the country, as well as hundred of thousands of ducks, geese, coots and wading birds. The Pintail Wildlife Drive has a new quarter-mile boardwalk from which to view the nearly 300 species of birds that come through here annually.

You can download an MP3 tour for your drive or look for an app from your smart phone provider. Later this year handheld GPS-coordinated units with audio and video will be available for rent at the Lake Charles Visitors Center. Make your reservations in Lake Charles orĀ  Sulphur, Louisiana.

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