Louisiana State Park Series: Chemin-A-Haut and Lake D’Arbonne

Bastrop native Rodney Hayes kayaks into the Castle Tree.

Louisiana’s State Park system is vast and varied like the Sportsman’s Paradise itself. This is one installment in a Louisiana Sportsman series showcasing their facilities and appeal. Learn more at https://www.lastateparks.com.

If you are making a list of things you’d like to do in the outdoors and looking for a place to do them, look no further than two northeast Louisiana state parks that are calling your name. Fishing, camping, hiking, kayaking and more… that’s just the top of the list for visitors to Chemin-A-Haut State Park north of Bastrop in Morehouse Parish and Lake D’Arbonne State Park between Farmerville and Bernice in Union Parish.

Chemin-A-Haut State Park

Visitors to this 503-acre site located in northern Morehouse Parish take the “High Road.” That’s what Chemin-A-Haut means in French. One of the earliest additions to the State Park system, the area sits on a high bluff overlooking winding Bayou Bartholomew.

It’s in that bayou that one of the most famous spots of the park is located.

Camper spots, tent camping and lodges like this one on the waterfront appeal to visitors to Chemin-A-Haut State Park.

The bayou boasts the “Castle Tree,” one of the biggest and most unique cypress trees that you will find anywhere in the state. And when you talk about Louisiana, that’s saying a lot. The popularity of the site has gone viral with rapid growth of kayaking and hundreds of social media posts.

“The Castle Tree has been core dated at over 1,500 years old. To paddle up next to a living organism that has been alive for that amount of time, has to make it a must see for any avid paddle sport enthusiast,” said Rodney Hayes, a native of nearby Bastrop who now lives in Harvey.

Hayes leads a group of up to 60 kayakers on an annual trip here.

“The Castle is not alone,” he said. “There are multiple very large cypress trees in Chemin-A-Haut Bayou. The big cypress are usually best visible from summer until early winter, based on Bayou Bartholomew’s water level.”

Visitors to the park may enjoy camping, fishing, hiking, picnicking and wildlife observation. Cabins, camper spots and primitive camping are all good ways to enjoy the varied woodlands of the park. It is an extremely secluded park and one of its drawing cards is the peace and quiet a visit here brings.

Big Slough Lake offers kayaking and fishing from the shore for bream, bass, catfish and crappie. When it comes to fishing, though, the park is seeing a big increase in the number of visitors who are taking trips to nearby Bussey Brake Reservoir. The 2,200 acre reservoir was recently opened and is giving up huge catches of fish, including several bass over 10 pounds and crappie over three pounds.

There is a eight-mile equestrian trail for horseback riders. During the hot summer months, guests cool off in the swimming pool. The picnic area includes 35 family sites with grills and tables, five group sites (for up to 24 people), and three shelters. A hard-surfaced trail goes through the picnic area and along the high, scenic banks of the bayou.

Crappie, bass and catfish draw anglers to D’Arbonne from all over the country, many of them calling the State Park home on their vacations.

Lake D’Arbonne State Park

There’s no mistaking the big draw at this 655 acre park in the piney hills of Union Parish. Lake D’Arbonne is a 15,000 acre reservoir that is one of the top fishing lakes in the state. It is renowned for the numbers and size of its crappie that not only attract recreational fishermen, but national crappie fishing tournaments. There are also abundant populations of bass, bream and catfish. In fact, there are few places in the lake that anglers can’t catch catfish or bream.

And it’s not just for folks with boats. This state park boasts six large fishing piers, three each in the Day Use area and the Campgrounds. There is a large improved boat launching facility and parking lot. Wide open areas of the lake, about five miles from the park, appeal to water skiers and pleasure boaters. The boat launch at the park opens up all of these opportunities to outdoorsmen.

Sisters on the Fly campers Lynn Hill, Renee Usie and Charlotte Bleidiessel relax beside “LouLaBelle,” one of the group’s many classic campers.

Not everyone comes here to fish. Camping is available at 58 campsites, 16 cabins and two lodges. The campsites keep the focus on nature and they blend in with the natural landscape to enhance the outdoor experience. One group that makes an annual trek here is the Louisiana Chapter of the Sisters On the Fly, an all-female camping group. The ladies are also all about vintage campers. Member Lynn Hill camps in a 1965 Airstream.

“We love the feel of the old state parks like D’Arbonne,” said Hill, who not only travels all year with the group, but also lives on the lake. “We aren’t about concrete slabs. We are about campfires and woods and being away from busy places. This park has all that and nearby there is plenty of shopping, fine eating and things to do. Plus the fishing is pretty dad gum good. We have some ladies who like the geocache, too, and that’s popular here, not to mention just walking and enjoying the trails and paths.”

A network of hiking and walking trails go throughout the park and it is the only State Park in Louisiana with tennis courts. Wildlife is abundant in the mixed pine-hardwood forest at Lake D’Arbonne and deer sightings occur regularly. The winding roads into and out of the park are awe-inspiring all on their own.

This park is a favorite with wildlife photographers because of the backdrop of the lake and the diversity of wildlife and birds that make the park their home. Bring your binoculars and camera to capture the wonders of the natural world from our beautiful nature trails. Cyclists enjoy the challenge of the rolling hills as a starting point for biking excursions into the steep inclines and scenic beauty of North Louisiana.

About Kinny Haddox 591 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.