by Jason Joy
Kisatchie National Forest is located in seven parishes
in north and central Louisiana. Unlike most of its counterparts,
it is not contained in a single unit, but in eight separate geographical
areas collectively totaling over 600,000 acres. Kisatchie encompasses
a wide variety of terrain and wildlife habitats which provide a myriad
of recreational opportunities. From the avid hunter or fisherman
in search of world-class game to the casual birdwatcher hoping to catch
a glimpse of the rare red-cockaded woodpecker, Kisatchie lives up to
Louisiana's reputation as The Sportsman's Paradise.
The Kisatchie Forest consists of the piney hills and
hardwood bottoms of elevations ranging from 80 to 400 feet. Some
of the more rugged hills are actually rather steep and rocky.
The diversity of Kisatchie is observed through a pleasant mix of dense
forest, meadows, scattered clearings and occasional rock outcroppings
which are traversed by numerous bayous and streams. Four lakes and many
smaller ponds and sloughs are also featured.
The forest is ideal for families wishing to experience
a tremendous variety of outdoor activities which, in addition to hunting
and fishing, include camping, picnicking, swimming, boating, hiking,
horseback riding, off-highway vehicle use, nature study, sightseeing
and road & mountain bicycle riding. Over 40 developed recreation
sites are open to the public.
Kisatchie National Forest has over 150 miles of official
trails, many of which can be explored on horseback. These are
developed and maintained by the USDA Forest Service to provide people
of all ages the opportunity to experience the natural beauty of a thriving
ecosystem. Of these 24 individual trails ranging from ½
mile to 19 miles, two, the Wild Azalea and Sugar Cane, are recognized
as National Recreation Trails because of their outstanding scenic qualities.
For those wishing to observe the Kisatchie from another
vantage point, the Forest is traversed by over 130 miles of creeks and
bayous that have been designated Scenic and Natural Streams. Water
Trails like Saline Bayou, a National Wild and Scenic River, provide
visitors the opportunity to canoe along these pristine waterways.
The Kisatchie National Forest was established June 10,
1930. This came about in large part through the efforts of naturalist
Caroline Dormon who had witnessed the depletion of Louisiana's lush
forests and ecosystem at the hands of lumber companies. Once the
virgin countryside had been cut no efforts were made at reforestation.
The formation of the Kisatchie was a response to the prevailing "cut
and run" attitude of the timber industry around the turn of the
century. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's conservation and emergency
work programs benefited this new National Forest. The Civilian
Conservation Corps (CCC) and other New Deal programs like the WPA helped
the Kisatchie grow in every way. Lands which were now useless
to big lumber companies were purchased at an accelerated rate by the
federal government and turned over to the Kisatchie. Ironically,
many of the men who worked to restore the land to its natural beauty
during the depression once earned their livelihood in the Louisiana
timber industry. By 1940 the forest had grown from 75,000 acres
in 1932 to over half a million.
The Kisatchie National Forest filled a vital role in America's
victory in World War II. Here virtually every Army leader who
would become famous during the war participated in the Louisiana Manuvers
of 1940. Dwight Eisenhower, Omar Bradley and George Patton all
learned important lessons during the huge exercise and put the experience
to good use in North Africa, Italy and Europe. The legacy of the
Louisiana Maneuvers endures. About 20 percent of the forest is
still used by the military and Fort Polk, home of the Joint Readiness
Training Center, was formed early in 1941 on lands of the forest's Vernon
The Kisatchie is a thriving National Forest which has
been restored to its original beauty under the USDA Forest Service which
is responsible for its management. The expertise of the Service
and the continued improvement of the area make the Kisatchie a must
see if you are traveling through the area and is ample proof supporting
the State of Louisiana's claim that it is truly a Sportsman's Paradise.