Located in South Central Louisiana about six miles north of Ville Platte, Chicot State Park (www.crt.state.la.us/louisiana-state-parks/parks/chicot-state-park) is the perfect spot for nature lovers. With over 6,400 acres of rolling hills and crystal clear Lake Chicot, it’s a prime birding and wildlife viewing venue. Even better, the Louisiana State Arboretum, which sits smack dab in the middle of the park, offers a few barrier-free trails; while a nicely accessible lakeside cabin gives wheelchair-users and slow walkers a comfortable place to spend the night.
Take A Hike
The Louisiana State Arboretum (www.crt.state.la.us/louisiana-state-parks/parks/louisiana-state-arboretum-state-preservation-area) occupies 600 acres of prime land set aside to showcase and preserve the flora and fauna of the Pelican State.
The arboretum main entrance is located off the park road, just a short drive from the main park entrance. There’s accessible parking near the Arboretum Visitor Center, with a level boardwalk that leads over to the entrance. Inside, there’s barrier-free access to the interpretive exhibits which offer a good primer on the plants and animals found in the arboretum.
The Baldy Cypress Trail, which begins behind the visitor center, offers wheelchair-users and slow walkers a closer look at the inhabitants of this Cypress-Tupelo swamp on the edge of Lake Chicot. The wide level boardwalk travels 500 feet to an overlook, where you’ll find ducks, herons and the occasional alligator. Although the remainder of this loop trail is not accessible due to steps and other obstructions, the boardwalk makes for a nice out-and-back stroll.
There’s also another accessible trail located on the other side of the arboretum. The best way to get to it is to drive back out the main park entrance, then turn right on Highway 3042. Look for a small parking area up the road, near the Dormon Lodge entrance to the arboretum.
An accessible parking space is located near the arboretum entrance. From there, a short level trail leads over to the Walker Terrace Trail, which begins across from the accessible restrooms. The .3-mile paved trail is suitable for just about everyone, and it includes interpretive exhibits which point out native plants and describe the soil types found in the arboretum. Although it’s a short trail, it offers an excellent overview of the vegetation found throughout the arboretum.
Spend the Night
There’s also a very comfortable and affordable accessible cabin in Lake Chicot State Park, just a short drive from the arboretum. Cabin 6 features accessible parking in front, with a level boardwalk that leads over to the cabin. This two-bedroom cabin sleeps eight, and it features wide doorways and good pathway access throughout the unit.
The large living room boasts a cathedral ceiling and it’s furnished with two 14-inch high sleeper sofas, two chairs and a wood burning fireplace. The large windows look out on the surrounding hardwood forest, and offer a stunning view of the park. There’s also a partial view of Lake Chicot from the adjacent dining room, which is furnished with a large table and six chairs.
There’s good pathway access to the fully equipped kitchen that includes a microwave, stove, and a full-sized refrigerator. And it comes complete with a nice selection of pots, pans, dishes, utensils and even a coffee maker.
One bedroom has a 21-inch high queen-sized bed with wheelchair access on both sides; while the other bedroom sports two bunk beds that have 14-inch high lower bunks and an access aisle between them
The bathroom has a full five-foot turning radius and is equipped with a tub/shower combination with grab bars, a hand-held showerhead and a fold-down shower bench. The toilet grab bars are located on the back and left walls (as seated), and the bathroom also has a roll-under sink. Add in lowered light switches and a hairdryer that’s within reach for wheelchair-users, and you’re good to go.
The cabin also has a large screened porch with a picnic table that has room for a wheelchair on one side. And if you’d like to throw some shrimp on the barbie, there’s a grill outside. There’s also a short accessible boardwalk to the right of the cabin that leads out over a small wooded swamp.
The cabin comes complete with bedding and towels, so just bring some groceries and prepare to settle in for a memorable stay. And although you can view the availability calendar at www.louisianastateparks.reserveamerica.com, cabin reservations can only be made by calling (877) 226-7652.