Trio of nearby parks offer Northshore area visitors triple the pleasure
South Louisiana is a widely diverse area with lots to offer people both as far as making a living and to enjoy our natural resources. In some areas, like the Northshore region above Lake Pontchartrain, populations tend to be concentrated in and around areas like Mandeville and Hammond. Fortunately there are a trio of Louisiana State Parks that also offer a quick getaway from the buzz and business of everyday life.
There’s water, swamps, pine forests, hardwood forests and more to highlight in the trio of parks, Fairview-Riverside, Fontainebleau and Tickfaw. And with that diverse habitat comes plenty of great fishing, kayaking, camping and activities galore right on the edges of some of the state’s busiest cities.
Fairview – Riverside State Park
When it comes to real estate, the first word of importance you hear is “location.” When it comes to the Fairview-Riverside State Park, few would argue that it sits among some of the prettiest real estate you’ll find on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain.
The Tchefuncte River runs through the park as do several crystal clear streams. While the average outdoor enthusiast marvels at the beauty, the area also draws pro and amateur photographers alike.
And did we mention fishing? There are lots of alligators and migratory birds while ambling down the boardwalk overlooking the swamp. But there is a lot more in store. Fishermen frequently catch bass, bluegill, redfish, speckled trout and other species in the park, from shoreline or boat. Crabbing in the river is another popular pastime, and casual hikers will enjoy the trails overlooking the Tchefuncte.
One of the park’s main attractions isn’t a natural feature at all, but a historical home reminiscent of Louisiana’s heyday. Otis House was built in the 1880s for a sawmill owner, later purchased and renovated by house namesake Frank Otis, and, upon Mr. Otis’ death, it was bequeathed to the state of Louisiana with the request that it become part of a state park. Today, Otis House is open for tours, Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Fairview-Riverside State Park offers 101 RV campsites, with water and electrical hookups. Whether you stay the night or not, make time to visit nearby attractions such as the Insta-Gator Ranch and Hatchery in Covington, the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum and Research Center in Madisonville, or the Dew Drop Jazz & Social Hall in Mandeville.
Fontainebleau State Park
Mandeville is one of the Northshore areas booming cities, but it is a short three mile trip from city to scenic getaway at the Fontainebleau State Park. It also happens to be a short drive from New Orleans, which means that within an hour after leaving the French Quarter, you can be paddling pristine streams full of native fishes and cypress trees.
There is a lot to do here, but mainly relax. And if you are into kayaking, there’s no place better. The 2,800-acre park is located on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain. On a clear day, visitors can see the lake dotted with multi-colored sailboats of all sizes and types.
Relax in comfort after a day of hiking, biking and birding at one of the primitive campsites, cabins or RV sites. You may also indulge yourself with a stay at one of the park’s waterfront cabins overlooking Lake Pontchartrain. A note here, Fontainebleau State Park cabins received damage during Hurricane Ida and have been closed for restoration. Please check with Louisiana State Parks for current updates.
Fontainebleau is a park with a past. It was once the site of a large sugar mill built under the direction of Creole planter and senator Bernard de Marigny in 1829. Marigny’s plantation fell into disrepair long ago, but today you can tour the brick structures that remain. You’ll also learn more about the man himself inside the park’s visitor center, where handmade tools and furniture are on display.
Outside the visitor center you’ll find a pier stretching over enormous Lake Pontchartrain, a prime spot for sunset-watching. A man-made beach offers sunbathers a chance to catch some rays, and for younger visitors, a water playground is open seasonally.
An old rail line at the north end of the park has been converted into part of the Tammany Trace, a 27-mile path that visitors can walk, bike or horseback ride through. By the way, this and the other trails in Fontainebleau State Park offer fabulous chances to see some of the more than 400 species of birds and other wildlife that live or migrate through the park.
The sights and sounds of Mandeville and Covington are a short ride away (and for intrepid travelers, both are accessible via the Tammany Trace). Schedule a trip with swamp tour or kayaking tours in the area, or grab a bite and a brew at Old Rail Brewing Company. A short drive over to Slidell, take a swamp tour with Dr. Wagner’s Honey Island Swamp Tours.
Tickfaw State Park
When it comes to visiting Tickfaw State Park, fishermen have one favorite draw in the massive Louisiana ecosystem.
The Tickfaw River. The Tickfaw is a stream near Hammond and has plenty of largemouth bass, bream, channel catfish and blue catfish.
And just like the mix of fish in the river, the surrounding area offers visitors the sights and sounds of a cypress/tupelo swamp, a bottomland hardwood forest, a mixed pine/hardwood forest and the Tickfaw River tributaries themselves.
Periodically the park site serves the region by detaining floodwaters when winter and spring rains overflow the steep banks of the Tickfaw River. These periods of occasional flooding offer a unique opportunity to educate visitors on the importance of periodic flooding in the cycle of life that makes wetlands an invaluable habitat and breeding ground for wildlife and fisheries.
At Tickfaw State Park, you can go night hiking or listen to the swamp nightlife from the porch of your vacation cabin. Check at the Nature Center for scheduled programs. While there, view the 800-gallon aquarium stocked with fish found in the Tickfaw River. There are also displays featuring the animals, history and culture of the area and of Louisiana. Be sure to watch the 8-minute introductory video about the history of the park area.
Bicycle, stroll or skate the interconnecting park roadways. The water playground offers refreshing fun for those not quite adventurous enough to explore the swamps and sloughs.