Louisiana State Park Series: Bogue Chitto and St. Bernard

These two state park gems offer their own special rewards

Not many people end up at Bogue Chitto State Park at Franklinton by mistake. It’s way out there from the normal byways of the state. The St. Bernard State Park is a more readily accessible park because it is a short drive from the largest population area of the state — New Orleans. You get your choice — city or country.

One of the gems of the Louisiana State Park system, Bogue Chitto State Park is a haven for anglers, families, campers and disc golfers. Fourteen miles of designated horse trails crisscross the park, meaning that visitors on horseback are never far from good views of the park’s namesake river. The topography of rolling hills and cypress forests make Bogue Chitto State Park a truly special place to spend time while visiting Washington Parish.

Load up the coolers, pack some sunscreen and get ready to chill out — literally. The cool waters of the Bogue Chitto offer Northshore visitors an awesome opportunity to beat the heat while floating through some of the wildest terrain in south Louisiana.

Bogue Chitto

Say “Bogue Chitto” to those in the know, and you’re likely to hear recommendations of where to go tubing. The slow moving river is perfect for a day of floating with the family, coursing through unexpected canyons past pebble-strewn natural beaches. The Bogue Chitto is well known for tubing, and numerous outfitters offer drop-off and pick-up, along with tubes, kayaks, canoes and life jackets. Two local businesses to check out are Louisiana River Adventures in Franklinton and Bogue Chitto Tubing Center in Bogalusa.

When the weather is right, floating down the Bogue Chitto through the state park is a popular pastime.

Many children and adults from nearby Folsom and Franklinton grew up spending summers on the river. Visitors have as well. Today, you can get a taste of the country life, with plenty of outdoor adventures to find at Bogue Chitto State Park.

Highlights include horseback riding through the cypress and tupelo swamps (dedicated horse trails exist throughout the park) and four miles of mountain biking trails. Freshwater fishing is just one way to have fun on the water as well as a water playground.

Overnight visitors are in for a treat. Because of Bogue Chitto State Park’s remote location on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, stargazing is spectacular. Fully appointed deluxe cabins (sleeping up to eight people) deluxe lodges (sleeping up to 14) and group camps (sleeping up to 52) make this park well-suited for family reunions and group getaways. Intrepid travelers will find dozens of campsites, and RV campers have their pick of parking spots. Water and electrical hookups are available.

In Franklinton, you can pick heaps of fresh blueberries at 3D Blueberry Farm. In Folsom, see thousands of exotic animals at Global Wildlife Center. And in Abita Springs, check out the Abita Mystery House, a quirky roadside attraction.

At Bogue Chitto State Park, a diversity of natural habitats makes up the 1,786-acre site including small streams, cypress-tupelo swamps, a hardwood forest, upland forests and a rolling landscape.

Fricke’s Cave, which — despite its name — resembles more of a gorge, possesses delicate sandstone spires created when water erodes the surface underneath pebbles. The pebbles remain perched atop the spires, while over time water splashes on the sandstone surface, forming the two-foot-tall fingers of sandstone that shoot up from the now-lowered surface. Boardwalks have been built so that visitors can admire the sandstone creations from afar, as the formations are too delicate to allow visitors to walk among them.

If the river doesn’t offer enough fishing, there are also 11 lakes stocked with a variety of freshwater fish for anglers and an outdoor classroom for those that want a learning experience.

St. Bernard

The drive here takes visitors just a few miles southeast of New Orleans, through oak-lined expanses of St. Bernard Highway that hug the Mississippi River. In the park, you’ll find yourself in the swamps, forest and lagoons of St. Bernard State Park.But most of all, you will find yourself away from the hustle and bustle over everyday life in the Big Easy.

The facilities and serenity of St. Bernard State Park are a dramatic switch from the big city life not far away.

This is the perfect day trip or overnight excursion. There are great places to pick a picnic table and barbecue grill at spots overlooking the forest, and enjoy getting together with friends or family. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, you can find a covered pavilion near the center of the park. While the water sports facilities are closed at the end of summer, remember they are there during the peak summer months in case you want to make a return trip.

Short hiking trails run between the roads leading into the park. One takes visitors across a lagoon onto an island overlooking wetlands typical of New Orleans’ surrounding natural areas. For overnighters, RV campsites are conveniently located throughout St. Bernard State Park.

If you are a visitor to the area and want to experience something new, nearby attractions await visitors just beyond the park’s boundaries. The charms of New Orleans’ French Quarter, Garden District, music and architecture are a short drive. Closer to St. Bernard State Park, you’ll find Chalmette Battlefield, part of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve where the deciding battle in the War of 1812 was fought. For some fun on the water, catch a charter boat out from nearby Venice and into the Gulf.

Picnicking never gets old at the individual tables or group sites like this one at St. Bernard State Park.

St. Bernard State Park is the ideal spot for visitors who are seeking a family atmosphere and natural experience, as well as for campers who don’t want to or cannot stray far from civilization. Many campers consider combining a camping vacation with a touring vacation of the New Orleans area. The Chalmette National Historic Park, Jackson Barracks, and other historic sites and plantation homes are also nearby.

A local family business donated the land for St. Bernard State Park to Louisiana in 1971. Today, St. Bernard State Park provides a much-needed recreation area, as well as relaxing and enjoyable surroundings for anyone wishing to experience a portion of Louisiana’s natural beauty.

Located right along the Mississippi River, the park contains a network of man-made lagoons which provides a peaceful, natural setting for relaxation. Woodlands meet wetlands in St. Bernard and the park’s nature trail is the perfect way to introduce children to the joy of discovery in nature.

About Kinny Haddox 597 Articles
Kinny Haddox has been writing magazine and newspaper articles about the outdoors in Louisiana for 45 years. He publishes a daily website, lakedarbonnelife.com and is a member of the Louisiana Chapter of the Outdoor Legends Hall of Fame. He and his wife, DiAnne, live in West Monroe.