Emily's Adventures: Red Dirt in Kisatchie - KALB-TV News Channel 5 & CBS 2

Emily's Adventures: Red Dirt in Kisatchie

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Red Bluff Camp Area Red Bluff Camp Area
Coyote Camp Scenic Overlook Coyote Camp Scenic Overlook
Longleaf Vista Complex Trail Longleaf Vista Complex Trail

ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB News Channel 5)-- It is that time of year again. The excitement of summer has begun to wear off as parents grapple for something, anything, to get the kids out of the house for a few hours. I grew up in Alexandria, so I know that there are only so many times you can go to the movies or sit by the pool.

The “stay-cation” has become a popular phenomenon, especially in these hot summer months. Parents are looking for things to do to get their families out of the house, but most people don’t have the time, money, or patience to plan big weekend getaways.

Louisiana’s culture and nature have so much to offer, and there are many wonderful jewels that often slip the minds of bored kids and sun-stressed parents. Day trips are something inexpensive, exciting, and manageable, and I am here to help you plan them!

Kisatchie National Forest is one of the best resources for outside adventure that Louisianians have at their fingertips. The Kisatchie Ranger District, or Red Dirt, is one of the areas of Kisatchie that is perfect for a day of exploring. If you are just going for the day and not bringing off-road vehicles or horses, you do not have to pay an entry fee. So, fill the car with gas, load up the family, and pack a bag with towels, water, and lunch.

Kisatchie Ranger District is tucked between Alexandria and Natchitoches. There are walking and biking trails, camping and picnic areas, and cool water to provide an oasis from the harsh summer sun. The day use hours are from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm, or daylight to dark.

I decided to venture out to Red Dirt, myself, for the first time in years and see if it really was the perfect place to spend a summer day.

I am, without a doubt, directionally challenged. With that being said, there are plenty of resources available to guide you to the park and around it. The website offers maps of the area, and I typed in the address given, 229 Dogwood Park Road, Provencal, La. This took me directly to the park and brought me to the Longleaf Scenic Byway, which is the road that takes you through the park and connects to all of the unpaved forest roads that lead straight to adventure.

Red Dirt has something for every kind of person. The water is cool and clear, providing the perfect escape from the summer heat that so often squelches any want for outdoor activity. For the more adventurous, there is a wonderful trail called the Sandstone Multi-Use Trail, which can be used for biking, hiking, off-road vehicle use, horseback riders, and mountain bikers. There are plenty of picnic areas, perfect for parking the car and sitting around for lunch, along with overnight camping areas, if you are more outdoorsy than I.

If you want to have an active day, bring your bike and park the car. The Sandstone trail is over 36 miles long, and there are two routes that vary in distance and difficulty. The North Loop is 16 miles long, the South Loop 15 miles long, and there is a cut-across trail that is only 5 miles long.

If you look at the map available at the information sites (Take one. Or five. It will make your adventure more manageable and less “Where are we going”), there are multiple places designated for camping and recreation.

For my day trip, I started on the west side of Red Dirt and made my way east. I began by exploring Lotus Camp, which is where I would begin the Sandstone Multi-Use Trail. There are picnic tables and a clear marking for the beginning of the trail. I then traveled to the Red Bluff Camp area. There is a path that has been marked, and it is an easy and short trek through some lightly wooded area. The Kisatchie Bayou lies along the edge of this area, and it is the perfect place to slip your feet into the water and get a taste for what would be available at the Kisatchie Bayou Recreation Complex. The third place that I visited was Coyote Camp, which is on the east side of the Red Dirt area; when you are driving towards this camp, there is a marker that says scenic overlook and directs you to a side road. Take it. This view was one of my favorite parts of my day trip, and it really reminds you of how special Louisiana is.

I wanted to look at the less-known areas of Red Dirt and really get a feel for it, but the two areas that Red Dirt is most famous for are the Longleaf Vista Complex and the Kisatchie Bayou Complex. Longleaf Vista Complex is not on the Sandstone Multiple-Use trail map that you will find at the information stations once you enter Red Dirt. To find this area, you will need to continue to travel east along the Longleaf Scenic Byway until you reach the Kisatchie Hills Wilderness Area. Believe me when I say that this is a highlight of the Kisatchie Ranger District, and it is worth driving to Red Dirt just to see this portion of Kisatchie.

Longleaf Vista Complex is for those who want the ultimate scenic view. It has a 1.5-mile interpretive trail that makes a loop through high mesas, creeks, meadows, and hardwoods. It truly shows a section of Louisiana’s unique natural terrain that leaves the visitor wanting to make another loop. The entrance to the trail is a set of steps that leads down from the parking and picnic area and into the woods. This is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful nature experiences someone can have in Louisiana. It boasts of diversity, and it provides a unique panoramic view. There is even a large, covered picnic area to rest and eat lunch after your walk.

Kisatchie Bayou Complex is the perfect area to explore if you are trying to escape the heat. I would recommend making the loop around Red Dirt and doing all of your hiking or biking adventures first and enjoying the cool, crisp water last. This will enable you and your family to be fully refreshed at the end of your excursion, and if you have little kids, it will let them splash around enough to tire them for the ride home.

This is District Ranger Michael Dawson’s favorite area of Red Dirt to visit in the summer. He said, “My favorite area is Kisatchie Bayou Recreation complex. It’s more of a creek than a bayou, with rocks, sandy beaches, and cool, clear water. It has that small, slight roar of water moving across rocks. It’s shady on the creek in the afternoon, and it’s one of the few places in Louisiana that you can actually hear the sound of running water.”

So, if you are looking for somewhere to explore with biking or hiking, or just a peaceful creek to lie in while you watch the kids play in some soft rapids, drive up to Red Dirt and explore. All you need is a car, a sack lunch, some water, and bug spray.

Adventure is available; you just have to find it.


Emily Redmond is working for KALB in the newsroom while she spends the summer at home in Alexandria. She just completed her sophomore year at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, and is pursuing a degree in Writing.

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