Roughing it the Louisiana Way
Like eating Brussels Sprouts or (almost) getting arrested, camping is one of those things that everyone should try once…even those who consider a night at a mediocre Hilton “camping”. I’ll admit it, I like modern plumbing, and luckily, most campsites have the option of such fineries. The Fountainbleau State Park and Fairview-Riverside State Park are two of our favorite spots to go camping in Louisiana, and they offer a range of campsites and fun outdoor activities for the whole family.
Premium to Primitive Camping
Two of my most memorable camping trips can be classified as low-premium and as unimproved (see below for classifications). Ultra-premium camping means shelter, electricity, and plumbing. I equate this to the summer camp Hayley Mills’ characters stayed at in Parent Trap or that abandoned summer boys camp my group and I were relegated to in the Australian outback that one time (it’s a long story).
My first-ever camping experience was primitive. We brought food in coolers, we set up tents, I wore heels for some reason (see first-ever)…it was a lot of fun despite being the coldest day of the year. Roasting marshmallows and meat over the campfire was terrific fun. Hobbling out to the woods in the dark to do what one must was less fun. Learning that raccoons like brownies and chocolate was downright educational (always put them back in the cooler when you’re done).
The second experience had cinder-block facilities within walking distance of the campsite. We still cooked out at night and enjoyed playing in the lake the next morning. Unfortunately, this was the hottest day of the year, and I learned the importance of insect repellent. Either way, camping is great fun, and here’s how you should enjoy it as you keep cool this summer.
If you’re looking for more peace, serenity, and nature sight-seeing, then the Fontainebleau State Park is where you’ll want to pitch your tent. This 2,800-acre park located on Lake Pontchartrain is history mingled with nature.
Once a sugar plantation, the Fontainebleau State Park features an old railroad track running through Tammany Trace. The railroad is perfect for outdoor activities like hiking, cycling, skating, and strolling.
The nature trail also features signs with information about various plants and shrubs; it’s also a bird watcher’s respite with over 400 different species in the area. Grab a copy of the Fontainebleau Birding Guide and take a romantic stroll while trying to identify different breeds, or make it a family outing and teach the kids the old-fashioned way (without the Internet!).
The Fontainebleau State Park has two different distances on the hiking trails, so if you tire easily, take the 1 ¼-mile nature trail. If you’re in the mood for something a little more challenging, try out the 4.8-mile hiking trail.
There are several options for campers at the Fontainebleau State Park campsite. Groups (think parties of 50 or more) can reserve campsites that have dining halls and dormitories—perfect for retreats!
Individual families can choose their own experience and pick from any of the following options:
- Premium Campsites: Of the 23 premium sites, 19 are pull-through, one with sewage hook-up; the other four have sewage hookup, and all have water and electrical hookup.\
- Improved Campsites: There are 103 sites with water and electrical hook up at the park.
- Unimproved Campsites: These 37 campsites have no hook up.
- Primitive Group Campsites: There are two of these reserved for scouting or other organized groups (office bonding trip, anyone?).
Meanwhile, in Fairview…
In terms of accommodations, the Fairview-Riverside State Park and Fontainebleau are pretty well matched. The only difference is that Fairview is much more accommodating to boating and fishing. Campers can wake up early and set sail on the Tchefuncte River to catch the day’s big meal of bluegill, bass, white perch, or bream. Go out to where the river meets the lake for catfish, speckled trout, and redfish. Another popular activity at Fairview-Riverside State Park is crabbing.
Unique to many campgrounds is campers proximity to a historic landmark. At the entrance to the property is the Otis House, which was built in the 1880s and left to the State of Louisiana following the property owner’s death with the intent that it be developed into a recreational site for guests. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places and costs $4 per adult to enter (children under 12 and seniors are free).
In terms of lodging, the Fairview-Riverside has:
- Premium Campsites: There are 22 of these sites with water and electrical hookup; all prime locations on the campgrounds.
- Improved Campsites: These 59 sites also have water and electrical hookup but lack the “prime real estate” distinction.
- Unimproved Campsites: Get ready to rough it if you pick one of these 20 sites, which lack water and electrical hookup.
One more thing: make sure you download the The Louisiana Pocket Ranger® app for tracking your experience. This free app includes all of the essentials for camping in Louisiana (just because you’re roughing it doesn’t mean you have to get lost, am I right?):
- Advanced GPS that enables you to accurately determine you distance covered on rides, hikes, and runs.
- Photo waypoint, so you can record coordinate of special sites like plant life or bird species as well as mark personal landmarks on your hike.
- Friend-finder in case you and your party decide to split up.
- Park information
- Detailed campground maps
The app does a lot more, so it’s worth downloading. Not only will you get the information you need for your site, but you’ll also get information for neighboring campsites and nature trails that you might be inclined to visit during your stay. Best of all, the phone app will be that little lifeline that the Hilton-camper in your party needs to feel like they’re not stranded in the wilderness.
Camping is a perfect activity for families, friends, or groups. It’s the best way to get into nature in the summer because you can always keep cool under the canopy of trees during a hike or by taking a quick dip in the lake. Take it from a girl who wore heels her first time camping, it’s really the best way to get away and chill out.
Planning to test your survival skills camping in Louisiana? Visit the Louisiana Northshore webpage for details on the many exciting outdoor sightseeing, camping, and adventure destinations of St. Tammany Parish! Or, download the apps to learn all about the area at EatDrinkEnjoy: Louisiana’s Northshore and Play Northshore on iTunes or Google Play.
Photo courtesy of LouisianaNorthshore.com