Louisiana State Park Series: Lake Bistineau and Lake Claiborne

Water is the main course on the menu for these two state parks

You know when the names of state parks include the word “lake,” it has got to catch the attention of fishermen, boaters and folks that like to camp with a view where they can look out over the waters for that peaceful, easy feeling.

Welcome to Lake Bistineau State Park at Doyline and Lake Claiborne State Park just outside of Homer. It’s summertime and they are your ticket to that and lots more. While they are both located less than 50 miles apart, the two parks and lakes are almost entirely different. The diversity gives visitors lots to choose from and a guarantee of a good time with something for everybody.

And there is a catch. Fish, that is. Both lakes are chocked full of bass, bream, crappie and catfish. And because of all the visible structure, the fish aren’t hard to find. 

Area fishing pro Homer Humphries fishes both lakes and said they are two of his favorites.

“I love bass fishing there and they are both such pretty places. There are loads of places to catch fish, both big and small. And bream fishing is fabulous all summer long. Crappie tend to move with the seaons, but when you find them, it’s on,”he said.

These Lake Bistineau campers went all out to make their home away from home a great place to vacation.

Lake Bistineau State Park

It might seen redundant to say “cypress studded lake” in Louisiana because it seems like most of them are. But this one’s a bit different. Its unique beginnings came when a log jam on the nearby Red River created the original lake. The lake was drained and the jam cleared, but in 1942, the government decided to construct a permanent dam, refilling the cypress swamp and creating Lake Bistineau. The lake is long and narrow, and actually touches parts of three parishes. 

Bistineau is lined full of cypress trees, draped in Spanish Moss. There are open areas, too, where water skiers can enjoy the lake. If you are new to the lake, make sure you know the difference. 

The State Park is located on the western shore of Lake Bistineau not far from Minden and Doyline. The park itself is a blend of beautiful vistas and outstanding recreational facilities. Memorable for its upland mixed hardwood forest and its enchanting stands of cypress and tupelo trees, the park offers two boat launches, hiking and biking trails and playgrounds.

Local angler and guide Homer Humphreys shows why folks like to bass fish on Bistineau.

Wide-trunked cypress trees lure photographers, boaters and nature lovers to Lake Bistineau State Park, located a short half-hour drive from Shreveport and Bossier City. It’s a kayak lovers dream. If you want to see north Louisiana’s pristine wetlands at their wildest, this is the place to be. 

You can explore these waters even if you don’t bring your own boat. Rent flat-bottom boats, canoes and kayaks and paddle out to Sandy Island, Snake Island or any of the other half-dozen islands. There is also an 11-mile canoe trail. Keep an eye out for the plentiful wildlife along the shorelines.

On the mainland, you’ll find 10 miles of hiking trails and a waterfront disc golf course. The park’s equestrian trails have made this a destination for horseback riders. Additionally, guests can take advantage of the disc golf course along with the diverse bird populations who frequent the area making it perfect for birding.

Guests have their choice of seven deluxe cabins along with one deluxe lodge available for rent. Two larger group camps can accommodate up to 48 and 160 people. RV campers can choose from 61 sites, many within view of Lake Bistineau.

Area 1 is located in the main section of the park, with cabins, and a group camp. Picnicking along the lake is tremendously popular at numerous sites equipped with tables, grills, and nearby restrooms. Several picnic pavilions are also available for larger groups.

There are lots of things to do around the park as well from the R.W. Norton Art Gallery and its bontanical gardens in Shreveport to the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum. In nearby Minden, explore the local history and heritage at the Germantown Colony Museum.

Visitors to the Lake Claiborne State Park find a cozy getaway on the swimming beach right in the park.

Lake Claiborne State Park

Lake Claiborne is almost like two lakes. There’s a huge open area down in front of the spillway that offers a multitude of opportunity for watersports. It’s on the western side of this area that you’ll find the State Park. Many sunken tops and brushpiles also make it a hotspot for fishing and schooling striped bass are a unique catch here.

You can take your pick: swimming, fishing, birding, boating of all kinds, waterskiing, camping, hiking or just plain relaxing and enjoying the unsurpassed natural beauty at Lake Claiborne State Park. For fishermen, the freshwater lake was lavishly stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish, striped bass, sunfish and crappie (what many folks up here call white perch). The lake itself, at full reservoir level, has a surface area of 6,400 acres.

In the arms of the lake and the northern ends, there are hundreds of boat docks, stumpy areas and shallow grassy areas for great fishing. But be aware in this end of the lake — stay in the boat lanes unless you are idling or get ready to visit your local boat repair shop.

In the park, two-bedroom cabins are nestled among the pine trees, and many offer a view of the lake. The RV campground rests among the slopes of the north Louisiana foothills, offering shaded spots to get closer to nature. Whatever your preference for an overnight stay, you’ll be sure to rest peacefully.

One of the most popular activities for visitors of all ages is swimming at the park’s sandy beach. The beach is situated on an inlet of the lake and is protected from boats and other activity.

The park also offers the top two rated disc golf courses in the state. Both courses offer 2 sets of tee pads, the blue tees are for the skilled players and the red tees for the newer players or first timers at the park. Families are encouraged to check out discs at the fee station on their next visit. Both courses start and end at the entrance. Scorecards and maps are available.

The woods of Lake Claiborne are also home to a wide variety of wildlife. Deer roam all over the property. Lovely nature trails and a scenic overlook will allow you to appreciate the beauty of the area at your own pace.

And because of the large open water area and secluded location, guests can wander down to the shore at night for star-filled sky views far from city lights.

Beyond Lake Claiborne State Park’s borders are many more opportunities to see north Louisiana at its finest. Right in Homer, see the historic Claiborne Parish Courthouse — completed in 1861. In nearby Ruston, check out Mitcham Farms, a peach orchard and country store. And in Minden, you can explore the Dorcheat Historical Museum.

About Kinny Haddox 592 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.