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Down Home LA: A picture-perfect corner of Louisiana

Palmetto Island State Park has something for everyone and shows off the best parts of the bayou state
Published: Jul. 16, 2020 at 7:41 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 16, 2020 at 7:43 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - At the beginning of this year, my family’s big vacation was scheduled to have been this week. It was actually kind of funny reading the “Mark Off” Outlook reminder that popped up when planning the time to shoot this story. Like so many of you, I know that 2020 hasn’t been what we’ve expected to say the least, and staying at home all the time, while so important, can leave even the most introverted person a bit stir-crazy. That’s what inspired this series of “Down Home Louisiana” summer getaways. Over the past few weeks, my wife and I have had an incredible time showcasing some of the most beautiful corners of the bayou state, so that you can get out of the house, safely of course, and experience some of what the place I love so much has to offer.

So far, we’ve driven one of Louisiana’s most beautiful trails, and we’ve hiked to our tallest peak. So the question on my mind is a simple one: what’s next?

Let me ask you a question first. If you close your eyes and tried to summarize what Louisiana looks like, what place comes to mind? The architecture of the French Quarter? The Jackson Street Bridge? A crawfish boil spread out over a pile of old newspapers? Any of those make sense, but if I had to really think about what is the most “Louisiana Looking Destination,” I would probably settle on Palmetto Island State Park.

The namesake of the park, visitors will be overwhelmed by the amount of Palmetto plants lining the grounds.
The namesake of the park, visitors will be overwhelmed by the amount of Palmetto plants lining the grounds.(Mark Klein)

Located just outside of Abbeville, about two hours from Cenla, you’ll stumble onto an incredibly picturesque corner of Louisiana. A state park, surrounded by tall oaks, Spanish moss and Palmetto plants that stretch out as far as the eye can see awaits, nestled in between calming bayous and the Vermillion River. Even the roads here know how nice this corner of the state is. To get to the park, you’ll need to take a scenic drive down “Pleasant Road.” I can’t make this stuff up.

The park is filled with things to do for your family. Fishing, hiking trails, canoe rentals and a boat launch are just a few of the many amenities available. We started our day off with a hike alongside a swampy lagoon and thanks to beautiful tree cover, it was actually a pretty cool day for a Louisiana Summer. We walked for about a mile before turning around and heading back to the main park grounds when the waters started calling us.

I don’t own a boat. I would love to own a boat, but someone once told me “don’t own a boat. Have friends that own boats instead.” I feel it’s important to share, that person is my friend with a boat, so hopefully, he would know. Even without my own vessel to take advantage of the Vermillion boat launch, the park’s canoe rentals are what attracted us to visit in the first place. We had a fantastic time renting a canoe and paddling up and down the serene bayous on our own, or as my favorite joke likes to say, “Bayou Self.” Even though we are not experienced paddlers, we were able to navigate the calm waters easily and have a great time.

Here's the view of the bayou from our canoe. We're definitely not professional paddlers.
Here's the view of the bayou from our canoe. We're definitely not professional paddlers.(Mark Klein)

There are so many beautiful palmettos and critters to see while paddling upriver. We spotted a few small gators on our trek, but they paid us no mind at all. Later on when filming from the shore with our drone “Air Five,” I learned that alligators are really attracted to the sound a drone makes. Luckily, they didn’t snap it out of the air, and instead, I was able to get some pretty awesome footage.

Canoeing the bayou, we ran into alligators, fish and this beautiful bird.
Canoeing the bayou, we ran into alligators, fish and this beautiful bird.(Mark Klein)

We experienced the park in one day, but you could easily spread out your trip over the course of a weekend. There are plenty of primitive campsites available and they even offer a few cabins big enough for the whole family to experience a bit of “glamping.”

I hope you have as fantastic of a time as we did!

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