Sulphur, LA, is a small city–the 13th largest–in the state of Louisiana, but it’s important for a few things. The first, of course, is sulphur, while the second is that it’s the gateway to the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road and Louisiana Outback.
The trail, which starts here in Sulphur, just outside Lake Charles, is more than 180 miles long, including portions of Louisiana state highways 14, 82, 27, 384, and 385 in southwest Louisiana.
You’ll also find this area described by other names such as the Cajun Riviera and the Louisiana Outback. Whichever one you choose to remember the area by, start your journey in Sulphur and be prepared for some experiences with nature.
Creole Nature Trail
The Creole Nature Trail, one of the first National Scenic Byways, was designated by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation in September of 1996. In 2002, it was upgraded in status to an All-American Road. This designation recognizes the unique features of southwest Lousiana or the Louisiana Outback, which don’t exist anywhere else in the country.
A number of small communities dot the Outback, but for the greater part its inhabitants don’t drive boats or cars.
Naturalists in the Outback have identified more than 30 species of mammals and 300 species of birds. Marshy areas are, of course, also great places for mosquitoes, and 39 species make it their home.
While alligators may be King of swamps, there are also plenty of other reptiles and amphibians to keep visitors watchful walking through the grass. The waters are alive with fish—about 132 different kinds of them!
Bird watchers find lots to focus their binoculars on in the Louisiana Outback too.
While birds like the Egrets, Herons, Roseate Spoonbills and White Ibis are common, there are also sightings of much rarer birds such as the Anhinga and Magnificent Frigatebird.
Sabine National Wildlife Refuge
The Sabine National Wildlife Refuge is a 124,511 acre (504 km²) sanctuary on the Creole Nature Trail, the largest coastal marsh refuge on the United States Gulf Coast.
The Refuge has also been designated as an “Internationally Important Bird Area” by Bird Life Internationaldue to the numerous wading, water and marsh birds that utilize it throughout the year. With fresh, intermediate and brackish marshes, as well as grassland prairie, the Refuge provides a diverse habitat. Nearly 300,000 visitors annually enjoy the exhibits in the refuge visitor center and the 1.5-mile Wetland Walkway with handicap access.
Young and old alike all enjoy dioramas at the visitor’s center starring T’Maurice, an old Cajun fisherman who tells about the marshlands.
The Cajun Riviera
The best water spots also have beaches, and the Louisiana Outback is no exception. Indeed, North Beach, on Lake Charles, is the only white sand beach from Texas to Florida.
The most well known, however, are the beaches often called the Cajun Riviera, which runs from Holly Beach, in Cameron Parish to Cypremort Point in Vermilion Parish. This 26-mile shore is the longest sand beach on the Gulf of Mexico and is still popular with visitors.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Holly Beach really was like the Riviera, offering many facilities for visitors, however, today it’s a community trying to rebuild yet again.
It was first destroyed in 1957 by Hurricane Audrey’s twelve foot storm surge, and then completely leveled in 2005 by Hurricane Rita, then damaged again by Ike in 2008.