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Sulphur, Louisiana

Lake Charles

Camp on the doorstep to Louisiana Wilderness

Lake Charles sits at the center of one of Louisiana’s most exciting playgrounds. From a history rich in pirates to neighborhoods filled with ornate mansions and a seemingly endless wildlife trail, visitors won’t run out of things to do in this fascinating destination.

Founded in the 1700s by French settlers, Lake Charles became a vital transportation hub for travelers on the Calcasieu River, which runs through the lake of the same name in the northeastern part of the town. Frontiersman James Bowie frequently traveled through the region, and pirate Jean Lafitte plied the waterway on his many privateering adventures.

Today, visitors can spend days fishing and sightseeing on Lake Charles and the other lakes and tributaries that are connected to the area by the Calcasieu River. However, no trip to the region is complete without touring the town and the surrounding neighborhoods.


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Charpentier Historic District

A great place to start is the Lake Charles Charpentier Historic District, which covers more than 40 blocks embellished with over 400 turn-of-the-century buildings fashioned in an eclectic array of styles. From the Civil War through the Roaring Twenties, northern lumber barons who went by the moniker of “Michigan Men” exploited Southwest Louisiana’s timber resources and built large dwellings.

French for “carpenter,” the district enshrines the fine wood craftsmanship that defines Lake Charles style. With whimsical turrets, steeped gables, beautiful leaded glass and fanciful latticework common to late 19th-century “gingerbread” style, Lake Charles’s homes marry traditional southern motifs with Louisiana’s taste for frivolity.

Other attractions in town include the Mardi Gras Museum, which exhibits colorful costumes from events past. Several local restaurants serve authentic Cajun cuisine, and this unique food can be enoyed at the many festivals held in throughout the year. Among the most popular celebrations is the Arts and Crabs festival, in which local creativity is celebrated along with the tasty shellfish. During the Downtown Crawfish Festival, contestants vie to be crowned the Crawfish Festival Queen.


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Creole Nature Trail

Lake Charles is a gateway to the 180-mile Creole Nature Trail, affectionately referred to as “Louisiana’s Outback.” Go behind the wheel on the All-American Road segments of the trail, or put on your boots and hike through some of the compelling footpaths and elevated walkways. Along with marshlands that provide sanctuary to more than 400 bird species, swamps that teem with alligators, fields ablaze with colorful wildflowers and 26 miles of Gulf of Mexico beaches, the Creole Nature Trail is an epic journey into what are billed as North America’s “Last Great Wildernesses.”

Start your journey at the Creole Nature Trail Adventure Point, located on the west side of Lake Charles. Entertaining and educational in equal measure, a series of creative exhibits immerse visitors in the culture and geography of Louisiana and present the geographical features and tremendous diversity of the three national wildlife refuges along the trail.

Southwest Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge Complex

Found 30 miles south of Lake Charles, the Southwest Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge Complex comprises Cameron Prairie, Sabine, Lacassine and Shell Keys National Wildlife Refuges. For a fascinating introduction to the area’s wildlife, the Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters houses a dynamic series of multi-media exhibits that elucidate the plants, creatures and landscape of Southern Louisiana.

This fecund tranche of Southern Louisiana is a paradise for ornithologists. With more than 300 species of birds, including raptors, migrating songbirds, waterfowl, wading birds and shorebirds, it’s no surprise that the area consistently ranks as one of the United States’ Top 10 birding destinations.

Of the three national wildlife refuges along the trail, the 125,000-acre Sabine National Wildlife Refuge is the oldest and largest. Established in 1937, the refuge conserves both freshwater and salt marshes and provides sanctuary to a staggering wildlife inventory that includes 26 mammal species, 41 different kinds of reptiles and amphibians and 132 species of fish. When it comes to ecological diversity, the Cameron Prairie Refuge also packs a punch. The refuge’s 10,000 acres of freshwater marshes and 15,000 acres of brackish and salt marshes provide critical nursery grounds for blue crab, brown and white shrimp, and a myriad of fish.

Adjacent to the headquarters of Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge, visitors can climb a wildlife viewing tower or fish along the park’s banks. Some trails crisscross the refuge, where hikers and walkers can observe the large numbers of shorebirds and waterfowl.

For More Information

Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana

Convention & Visitors Bureau




Louisiana Office of Tourism