Even on a cloudy morning, daybreak at Louisiana's Lake Chicot is a gentle wonder as the sky, the sturdy cypress and the birds come to life.
“It's man-made,” Kim Hollier said. “It was a natural, wet kind of swampy area with the Bayou Chicot running through it, and in the 30s, the CCC, Civilian Conservation Corps, built the longest levee, earthen levee, that they built anywhere in the U.S. and dammed up and formed the lake for the park."
The entire 2,000-acre lake is part of Chicot State Park near Ville Platte. One of the reasons there is such a variety of trees and plants at the arboretum is because of the changes in the landscape. The area naturally has almost every type of forest that's found in Louisiana. You walk through swampy bottom lands, the prairie and the beginning of Louisiana's hill country.
“When the kids come from South Louisiana, they think they’re in the mountains because it's so different from what they're used to," Hollier said.
This diverse landscape was chosen as the site for the Louisiana State Arboretum, a natural display of native trees and wildflowers.
“They're all native plants,” Hollier said. “Everything in the forest is natural, because we have all those different forest types already.”
There is a new nature center that explains the different types of forests and animals of Louisiana. You can see the native trees and flowers by walking 6 miles of trails, and you see the colors change with seasons.
“It's just a nice, calming, exciting experience,” Hollier said. “A lot of kids don't get to go out in nature and see these things normally. You can see flowers you've never seen before, you can just have a nice hike. I love this place."
A walk through the arboretum brings the natural side of Louisiana into focus. From the tiniest flowers and animals to the tallest trees, you can experience its gentle beauty.