Things to do Near Louisiana State Arboretum State Preservation Area

Louisiana State Arboretum State Preservation Area is a 600-acre nature preserve located in the hills of Chicot State Park, near Ville Platte. This is one of the best locations for viewing ancient stands of Louisiana trees and other native plants, which are cared for by passionate preservationists and the Friends of the Louisiana State Arboretum.

The idea for an official state arboretum came about when naturalist, author and artist Caroline Dormon proposed the creation of a preserve that would teach Louisianans about their native, natural environment. Chicot State Park, the site of centuries-old trees, was the perfect fit for such a place. In 1961, Louisiana State Parks set aside 301 acres within Chicot to create the nation’s first state-supported arboretum. In 1964, it opened to the public, with a goal of attracting students, tourists, botanists and nature lovers of all kinds to learn about and enjoy the Bayou State’s horticultural riches.

In the decades since, the Louisiana State Arboretum State Preservation Area has doubled in size. Within its 600 acres, you’ll find six miles of hiking trails and boardwalks, and a visitor center with a state-of-the-art interactive exhibit on Louisiana’s forests. Meet the staff naturalists who lead birdwatching tours and workshops for both children and adults. Take the trails through stands of sycamores, magnolias, crane fly orchids and ferns, and keep your eyes open for sightings of foxes, deer, skunks, raccoons and other four-legged friends. And join the more than 10,000 visitors who add the Louisiana State Arboretum State Preservation Area to their travel itinerary every year, spending a day discovering and enjoying the Louisiana wilderness.

Nearby Attractions

Chicot State Park, located near the geographic center of Louisiana in known what’s known as the Cajun Prairie, is a well-known spot among anglers and nature lovers alike. Lake Chicot is the centerpiece of its namesake park, which, at 6,400 acres, is the largest in the Louisiana State Parks system.

The huge lake has produced huge catches of largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill and redear sunfish. In fact, multiple state record catches have been made here. Further evidence of fishing’s importance here is evidenced by the sign at the park’s entrance (featuring two redear sunfish). It’s undoubtedly the main attraction at Chicot State Park.

Chicot State Park’s closest city, Ville Platte, is the seat of and largest city in Evangeline Parish. The city’s culture and cuisine are unlike those you’ll find anywhere outside of the Cajun Prairie. It’s the northernmost city in what’s known as the “French Triangle,” so named for the populations of French Cajun speaking residents in the area. Besides the accents and language, Cajun culture is alive in the sounds of Ville Platte’s musical traditions. Thanks to numerous artists from the region, one of Ville Platte’s nicknames is the “Swamp Pop Capital of the World.” You can learn (and hear) more about this distinctly Louisiana musical tradition at the Swamp Pop Museum, housed in a converted train depot in Ville Platte.

Ville Platte’s connection to Cajun culture extends beyond language and music. Its other nickname, the “Smoked Meat Capital of the World,” is testimony to how serious its residents are when it comes to cooking. In addition to the city’s Cajun restaurants (most notably, Crawfish Barn and Cajun Catfish & Buffet), you can get your fill of local dishes like boudin and andouille sausage at the annual Louisiana Smoked Meat Festival.

Ville Platte’s other main festival, the Louisiana Cotton Festival, honors the region’s farming community. Held in the fall, it features pageants, live music, dancing and plenty of locally made dishes.

Head north of Chicot State Park for another popular local event, the Louisiana Corn Festival held in Bunkie. Like the Louisiana Cotton Festival, it honors the region’s agricultural community, and features everything from corn-eating and corn-shucking contests, to live music, to pirogue (boat) racing, and family-friendly activities. It’s held the second full weekend of June annually.