Louisiana Outback
June 4, 2004
Rhea's Journal 14

The Creole Nature Trail is a National Scenic Byway and in 2002 received the designation of All American Road. It skirts the Gulf of Mexico from Cameron to the Texas Border. It also makes a loop from Sulphur to Lake Charles. We decided to spend the day on the Creole Nature Trail.

As my husband Leon and I explored Cameron we could not help thinking of the devastation of Hurricane Audrey with the loss of 500 lives, and the courage of the people to rebuild and look to the future. We turned down Davis Road, which leads to the Gulf. The sides of road along the Calcasieu River are lined with oil service companies but at the end of the road is newly completed fishing pier. From here you can see the long rock jetties built out into the gulf to keep the channel open. From Davis Road you can also see Monkey Island. There are graves of Union and Confederate soldiers on the island, and a ferry that goes over to the island. But since the name sounds much more exotic than it looked we skipped the ferry knowing that we were going to have to cross the Cameron Ferry just a few miles down the road. In those few miles we passed many shrimp boats and oil service companies. While waiting for the ferry we watched as oil platform was being sandblasted. The towers were at least seven stories high and it even contained a helicopter pad and was a mobile platform. Everywhere you looked you saw the juxtaposition between nature and industry.

A few miles further west we arrived at Holly Beach, called by the natives "The Cajun Riviera". Holly Beach has experienced serious beach erosion in the past. A sand management project has deposited 1.7 million cubic yards of sand on the beach to reestablish the shoreline and to protect the marsh wetlands. We walked along the now wide beach for about a mile. The sand is white and soft almost like a Florida gulf beach.

Between Holly Beach and Constance Beach is a tremendous Breakwater System. Since 1991, some 85 breakwaters have been built to stabilize the shoreline and protect about 31,000 acres of marsh. Highway 82, built on top of the last remains of a chenier ridge is right at the edge of the sand and waters edge. The new sand from the sand management project is white and beautiful. People were fishing from the rock breakwaters.

After Holly Beach are a series of small beach developments, Constance Beach, Gulf Breeze Beach, Little Florida Beach, and Johnson's Bayou. Johnson's Bayou is said to have been one of Jean Lafitte's handouts. Along the highway growing in the ditches we passed several miles of Louisiana Iris in full bloom.

When we reached the Sabine Pass we knew it was time to turn around for we had reached the western most part of Louisiana's wetlands. Back at Holly Beach we turned north on Highway 27, which is still part of the Creole Nature Trail. Sabine National Wildlife Refuge is located on this road. It was established in 1937 and is 124,511 acres. It has a popular Wetland Walkway that is 1.5 mile long. We were told that 300,000 people visit the refuge each year and most visit the walkway. We made the loop that takes you on both concrete walkways and boardwalks over the marsh. There is also an observation tower that gives you long vistas over the marsh. The cloud formations over the marsh were particularly interesting and will probably find their way into a painting soon.

One of the major problems in the refuge is salt-water intrusion into the former fresh and brackish water marsh. The refuge staff maintains and manipulates water levels with 61 miles of levees and eight major water control structures, always trying to safeguard the wildlife.

When we left the Sabine Refuge we were starving so we headed to Sulphur and of course we had to have Cajun food and listen to Cajun music.