Sam Houston Jones State Park can be found a short drive from Lake Charles and is bordered by the West Fork of the Calcasieu River on its west side and the Indian Bayou River on its east side. Both of these rivers, together with the Houston River, merge together to join the great Calcasieu River, which flows through Lake Charles and a series of other lakes before finally reaching Calcasieu Lake and continuing out into the Gulf of Mexico. This stunning state park is not too far off the beaten track and is southwest Louisiana's only state park. Its 1,087 acres is spread over woodlands, rivers, and lakes and is home to a variety of wildlife including squirrels, deer, frogs, and the occasional alligator. Forests of cypress trees and pine trees can be found within the park and provide ample shade for visitors during the warmer months.
Visitors to the park will find that a large majority of the preserve has been left in its original, natural state to maintain the natural beauty and habitats of the surrounding area. Thanks to this, the park is now a safe haven for an array of animals and the more than 200 birds that pass through on their migration. The park gets its name from two men: Sam Houston Jones, the 46th governor of Louisiana, who worked very hard to found the park in 1944, and Sam Houston, a Tennessee and Texas governor who regularly traveled along this stretch of Louisiana some 150 years ago.
RVers visiting the park can enjoy hiking along the lagoons and through the forests, locating geocaches hidden in the park, fishing and paddling along the rivers, meandering through the park looking for different birds, and trying out the park's 18-hole disc golf course. A large stage with built-in seating can be found in the middle of a forest of cypress trees where visitors can listen to and watch demonstrations from the rangers. You can visit the park year-round.
Visitors to the park can take LA-378 to the park, which goes through the city of Westlake and is quite scenic. The tarred road to the park is pretty straight and clearly marked, and RVers with larger rigs don't have to worry about any height restrictions along the way. Feel free to collect a map of the park when you pass through the entrance to the park, once through you will continue along the tarred road to the campgrounds or the to the parking area.
A 10.6-mile drive will get you to the city of Lake Charles, where RVers can stock up on groceries, gas, and try out local restaurants or visit museums. The surrounding area outside the park is well forested with many rivers, lakes, and swamps to explore. RVers who are in the area can visit the nearby South Toledo Bend State Park and fish in the plentiful lake or explore the park on foot or on a bike. The Kisatchie National Forest, with beautiful forests of pine and cypress along a slow flowing creek, is also a must-see for hikers, fishers, and avid birders.
Day visitors and campers will find ample parking on the eastern side of the park, a short distance from the disc golf course and near the picnicking area along the river.
Sam Hoston Jones State Park Campground has 38 campsites that have water and 50-amp electric hookups. These sites are paved and can accommodate both RVers and tent campers. Two of the sites are ADA-accessible. Campers can bring along their leashed pets. Site amenities include a grill and a picnic table, and communal restrooms with flushing toilets and hot showers can be found nearby.
Sites can accommodate a maximum of two cars at a time, and if campers have more than two vehicles, they will need to park them in the overflow parking area. The sites are nicely shaded and are only a short distance from the river, providing campers with the gentle sound of lapping water while they sleep. Campers can often see squirrels, herds of deer, foxes, and other wildlife near their campsites. Laundry facilities are available and can be used at no cost. A playground and a dump station are situated a short distance away from the campgrounds.
The park has eight cabins for you to choose from, two of which are ADA-accessible. The cabins have two bunk beds, one single bed, and one sofa sleeper, enabling each cabin to sleep to five to six people. Visitors can stay at the cabins throughout the year thanks to their central air conditioning and electric heating. Satellite TV, bed linens, a fridge, stove/oven, eating, and cooking utensils, and an outdoor picnic table are all provided with the cabin.
The park's lodge is the perfect option for larger groups of people or events like family reunions. The lodge can sleep up to 12 people with its four bunk beds, two single beds, and one sofa sleeper. The lodge has a fully equipped kitchen, including a microwave, oven and stove, and a fridge, central air conditioning, electric heating, and a satellite TV.
For groups wanting a more authentic camping experience, head to the primitive camping site in Sam Houston Jones State Park. There is a fire ring provided to cook over, but apart from that, this site is very primitive. There are no water or restroom facilities available, and everything has to be backpacked in.
Southwest Louisiana is well known for its excellent birding opportunities and Sam Houston Jones State Park is no exception. Visitors can see a large array of permanently roosting birds and over 200 different species that visit the park during their migration during certain times of the year. The park has a variety of different birds in its borders including bald eagles and pineywoods bird species like swallow-tailed kite, red-shouldered hawk, barred owl and eastern screech owl.
Some of these like the double-crested cormorant can be seen in the winter, while others like the Mississippi Kite can be seen in the summer. This ensures that whatever time of the year you visit the park, there will always be birds for you to see. You can look for birds all over the park, but the hiking trails are an especially good place to birdwatch. The trails go along the river, where you can find bald eagles and through the forests where more pineywoods birds can be found. A good resource for birders visiting the park is A Birder's Guide To Louisiana, which details the various birds that can be found within the state.
Sam Houston Jones State Park is part of a geocaching adventure that encourages geo-seekers to visit all of the historic sites and state parks in Louisiana. Every historic site and state park has its own unique mission and a story that goes along with it, and each cache offers a memorable adventure. There is an official Geo Project cache situated in the park that holds a unique clue. Collect it and the other special clues found at other historic sites and state parks in the state to find the last cache that is hidden somewhere in Louisiana. Keep in mind that most of the caches situated throughout the park will have you walking through forests and along rivers where you will find mosquitoes and other bugs, so make sure you pack bug repellent in your motorhome.
Choose one of the five trails that meander throughout the park for a lovely hike or stroll. One of the trails actually leads to a historic stagecoach road. Hiking is a great way to explore as much of the park as you can, and you will see stunning views of natural habitats and various wildlife. Deer and turtles are some of the more common animals that can be seen along the trails, although snakes and alligators can occasionally be seen. Snakes and alligators, although usually harmless, like their space—so don't get to close.
The trails vary in length from 0.5 miles to 3.5 miles and add up to a total of eight miles. Hardwood and pine forests and tree-filled lagoons are some of the terrains that hikers will experience along the trails. You can also pack your bike along and enjoy biking along the trails. Early mornings and evenings are the ideal time to take strolls along the river and make for stunning photos.
Have you played disc golf before? If not, prepare to have the time of your life. Disc golf is a mix between golf and frisbee and is gaining in popularity in Louisiana. Depending on your skill level, there are three courses you can play. The park's disc golf course is dedicated to Bob Rodgers and was first opened in 2013. You can find it near the beginning of the Longleaf Pine Trail. Disc golf is an activity for the whole family to enjoy. There are several benches around the course where you can take a break if you want and enjoy the surrounding beauty. Don't worry if you don't have your own discs; you can borrow one from the front office. If you would like to go all out and bring along your golf cart, you can. You will need to pay a small daily fee at the park office.
Enjoy exploring the rivers surrounding the park and the smaller canals and mini lakes in between. There are a couple of boat launches available to use that both provide access to the Calcasieu River's West Fork, so bring your boat along. Once in the water, you can carry along the Calcasieu River to gain access to the Houston River and the Indian Bayou River. There is also a boat dock for visitors to dock the boats and kayaks that they bring with them.
Several canals and streams flow through the park, some of which can only be reached by kayak or canoe. Make sure to pack your kayak or canoe along to enjoy exploring these secluded areas. Don't worry if you don't have a kayak or canoe; you can rent one or a life jacket from the park. If you like to paddle and fish, anglers can also throw a line in when they are out on the water and see what they can catch. White perch, bass, and bream have all been found in the surrounding waters.
Get out and picnic along the shore of one of the park's little lakes or along the shore of the West Fork of the Calcasieu River. The lakes often find ducks and geese swimming in them. A pavilion, picnic benches, and restrooms are situated near the lake for visitors to use, and there is ample parking for both campers and day visitors next to the lake. A short walk away from the picnic tables is the beginning of a hiking trail. Sitting down and enjoying a packed lunch with a view of the lake and the river is the perfect way to finish a hike!