Toledo Bend Forest Scenic Byway
The largest manmade lake in the South, Toledo Bend Reservoir is surrounded by some of Louisiana’s most impressive pines and hardwoods. The Toledo Bend Forest Scenic Byway lies in west-central Louisiana along the state’s border with Texas. The byway parallels the reservoir and takes in both the recreational bounty of the lake and the beauty of the forests, which provide a natural habitat for many kinds of wildlife. The area encompasses many parks, golf and fishing resorts, marinas and outlooks where visitors can drink in the scenery and spot eagles and blue herons. The rolling byway is especially lovely in the spring and summer, when the wildflowers and native blooming trees add their color. Bikers can take advantage of the byway’s 26 miles of bicycle trails. Bring your camera; you’ll find a lot to photograph. Here is a sample of what you’ll find:
South Toledo Bend State Park
The park lies on several small bluffs extending above the Toledo Bend Reservoir. A favorite spot of bass fishermen, the park also is a nesting ground for bald eagles. Visit Toledo Bend Dam at the south end of the park to see how the 185,000-acre lake came into being. About 15 miles up the byway is the verdant paradise of Hodges Gardens State Park, where you can see acres of flowers planted along natural rock formations. The park has a formal rose garden, many azaleas, pools and waterfalls, picnic areas and nature trails.
Farther north, just off the byway near Many, visit Fort Jesup, the site of a garrison established in 1822 by future U.S. President Zachary Taylor. You can view the original field kitchen and a replica of the officers’ quarters. In this area also, you can trace the history of El Camino Real, a trading route used by early explorers that helped create a cultural melting pot in southwestern Louisiana.
Near this historic area you’ll also find Cypress Bend Resort, a luxury resort that includes an 18-hole golf course, spa and restaurant. Next to the resort is Cypress Bend Park, which has a large, sandy beach, playground, RV pads and a marina.
North Toledo Bend State Park
Continuing upriver, you will enter the upper portions of the sprawling Toledo Bend scenic and recreation area. Opportunities abound for water sports of all kinds, but bass fishing rules, and this area is home to numerous annual fishing tournaments. Camping, hiking and birding are popular here. You can also rent a canoe or paddle boat for a leisurely tour on the water.
You’ll find many good stopping points for food and recreation along the way, but when you reach Logansport, at the northern end of the park, consider a stop at River’s Edge Restaurant, which serves up platters of chicken-fried steak, seafood and other “country-style” entrees. Browsers might enjoy visiting the Caraway Store, a century-old retailer whose merchandise ranges from antiques to gourmet kitchen items.
* To visit any of Louisiana’s Wildlife Management Areas, you must have either a valid Louisiana fishing or hunting license OR a Wild Louisiana Stamp. You can buy these online at www.wlf.louisiana.gov or by calling 1-888-765-2602 or at any vendor that sells hunting and fishing licenses, such as Bass Pro Shop, Walmart and Academy Sports. If you are buying a license or stamp for short-term use, you will be given an authorization number; that, plus a valid I.D., allows you to visit the WMA and hunt or fish. Prices vary for hunting and fishing licenses. The Wild Louisiana Stamps costs $2 for a one-day stamp.