louisiana

Louisiana: Gators, Red Rivers and Casinos

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We spent about 5 days in early February in Louisiana. As I mentioned in our post about Texas, once we hit east Texas the climate changed dramatically. This weather continued through Louisiana. Most of the time we were there is was between 70 and 80 degrees, overcast and humid. It was not horribly uncomfortable. Unfortunately it was still getting 30 degrees colder at night, so we still turned on the furnace occasionally.

As you may know, Mardi Gras was on February 13th in New Orléans this year. We thought about sticking around for it, but while we were contemplating, a tornado (actually 7 or more) hit New Orléans. The area was devastated. I’m sure they were able to do at least some repairs by Mardi Gras, but we didn’t know what the situation would be to get there and stay there in our RV. So we decided to bypass it this time around.

The Shreveport/Bossier City area had its own set of Mardi Gras celebrations, but they were at about the same time as the ones in New Orléans. We already spent several days in that area and were pretty much “done” with it, and didn’t feel like sticking around for the weekend.

I’m going to go over the places we visited in Louisiana that we enjoyed visiting.

Caddo Lake in Oil City, Louisiana

Caddo Lake actually runs across the Texas-Louisiana border, and I believe you can camp on both sides. In Oil City we stayed at Earl G. Williamson Park, which was our first state park visit.

This park has waterfront sites with water and electric hookups. There are also primitive sites for camping without hookups or in a tent. The cost is $12 per night and they have a dump station on site as well as a boat ramp and a playground.

This was our first state park visit, ever. The spots are grassy and we had a difficult time finding one that was level, but for 2 people who’d become accustomed to sleeping in parking lots that were never level it was not a big deal. We actually opted to pull in forward instead of backing in to our spot so we could have a lake view through our windshield.

The view was absolutely gorgeous. Here are some of the pictures I took during our stay:

This was the day I fell in love with state parks. I’d of course been in state parks before, but never camped in one in our RV. Being this close to the water and falling asleep to the sound of the waves was magical. The cypress trees growing out of the water were beautiful and fascinating. This is something we’d never experienced before. The closest would be our stay in Pismo Beach during a vacation, when we could hear the ocean but not see it from our campsite.

If anyone is travelling through east Texas or western Louisiana, I highly recommend making this part of your itinerary.

However, I would not recommend fishing or swimming in the water. Off in the distance, you can see active oil rigs in the middle of the water.

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Once I saw this it ruined the view for me…luckily I didn’t figure it out until we were about to leave.

Sadly, these oil rigs are a part of the landscape, in much of Texas and West Texas in particular. They provide jobs and bring income to the state, but I certainly wish we could find a way to stop using such a highly polluting source of energy and fuel.

As a side note, if you’re concerned about the environmental impact of RVs, think of it this way. While we did make a big trip and use a lot of gas for a month, most months we are travelling up to 500 miles, and usually less. We don’t have a commute. So in general we use far less fuel than most people who drive to and from a job every day.

Gator and Friends in Greenwood, Louisiana

Greenwood is pretty much the first city you see when entering Louisiana along I-20. They are an exotic animal park that has alligators (of course), but many other animals, many of whom can be petted and hand-fed. On their website they discuss increasing education and awareness. The cost is $9.95 per adult or $6.95 per child. They also have zip line tours over the alligator ponds (!), which we did not do.

Here are some of the animals we met:

 

And here is Ryan with a baby alligator.

 

That is electrical tape around the gator’s mouth. I was a little concerned after, so I looked it up. Apparently this is common practice for alligator handlers. The tape is not supposed to stick to their skin or harm them in any way. The strength in an alligator’s jaws comes from when they bite down, but it takes a tremendous amount of force for them to open their mouths (basic physics involved here). That is why one person can hold an alligator’s mouth closed with his/her two hands.

For those who are curious, this baby alligator had soft, smooth skin that was cool to the touch. His ridges along the back were hard to the touch but not sharp. He apparently is used to being handled, because he did not try to struggle to get away or seem like he was in any distress. I talked to him and looked at him and he looked me right back in the eyes, very alert. He was very beautiful.

I think it was very interesting and informative to visit here. However, I am beginning to agree more and more with the people who don’t like zoos or other places where animals are put on display. As much as I love the animals and the ability to see them up close and even touch them, I just don’t know if it’s the best thing for them. So I don’t know that I will want to visit any more zoos or similar places.

Horseshoe Casino Hotel in Bossier City, Louisiana

The majority of the rest of our time was spent staying at the Horseshoe Casino in Bossier City. They have an oversized vehicle lot where we parked, with permission. The casino, along with several others, are along the water a body of water called the Red River. It does have a reddish tinge to it in some places due to red soil that is sometimes swept into it during heavy rains.

Along the back of the casinos and some other shops along the waterfront you can take a stroll along the Louisiana Boardwalk. It gives a nice view of the river.

Here’s a quick tip based on our experience from casino camping in Bossier City. The Horseshoe parking lot is easily accessible but right next to major streets and quite busy. We called the Margaritaville Casino and asked if they had parking; they did and directed us to an unpaved area next to the parking lot. There were several big rigs parked there, so we backed away next to some trees to give some distance from their idling engines.

It was nice and quiet there and sort of private with the trees. Then a homeless guy came and knocked on our door. He was mumbling a lot and seemed to be on drugs. He came back again 5 minutes later. After that we decided to leave and return to the parking lot at the Horseshoe, which had much more traffic coming through and no place for homeless people to hide.

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Overall impressions of Louisiana

I feel like this was our first experience with the south and not the southwest. We did some walking in Bossier City and some other cities we stopped in just for the night. Some things of note were that we found very few sidewalks and bike lanes. We did not feel comfortable biking around through the busy streets, and even walking was tricky sometimes. This was a theme that continued through the south. We still enjoyed our explorations.

The bayous, the weather and the landscape definitely had my attention, though. I would like to come back through Louisiana some day, but further south so we can see New Orléans and the coastal area.

I do have some footage of the places we visited, but it isn’t quite ready yet so I’ll release that separately.

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2 thoughts on “Louisiana: Gators, Red Rivers and Casinos

  1. This is a fun post to read. I have a dilemma about zoos: I don’t think they are the best places for animals, but also want children to see animals they might not possible ever see.

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