Acadiana Nature Station
"We did not inherit the earth from our fathers. We borrowed it from our children."
This quote is the first thing you'll read when you visit the Acadiana Nature Station website. These words are at the heart of what Curator of Natural Science, Stacey Scarce and Naturalist, Tshy Cross try to educate their visitors on everyday. Their mission: "To reacclimatize humans to their natural surroundings. Through this process of coming to know, to understand and finally to care about Nature, it is hoped that folks will experience the change in heart necessary for them to take personal responsibility in conserving our native plants and animals, along with restoring the natural habitats in which these organisms live."
Trailhead sign at parking area
There are two main loop trails for visitors to explore. The South Loop trail is around 2 miles total with numerous spur trails and two inner circles. The North Loop is a little over 2 miles total with a cut-through midway and a spur trail near the Vermillion River.
Length: 6 Miles
Trail map at trailhead
Your hike begins at the Nature Station parking lot, near the entrance to the Acadiana Park Campground. You'll take a .25 mile trail that leads to the actual Nature Station. Step inside and say hello to Stacey and she'll be happy to show you around. After you've looked around the Station, step outside and follow the boardwalk down to where the inner circles begin. Here you have the option of going right or left to start the main loop. Go right and there is a spur trail shortly after that will take you on Sapsucker Ridge and along the Francois Coulee (a Coulee is a small ditch or canal in a swamp). This .25 mile trail will take you back to the main loop. Soon you'll arrive at the Dan Debaillon Canal and another boat dock. How cool is it that this trail system has two boat/canoe docks??
Dan Debaillon Canal
Look to your right and you will see where the canal and the Vermillion River intersect. Across the canal, on the other side of the levee, is the North Loop. Continue on the main loop and you'll pass two spur trails that will take you to the smaller Live Oak loop. Stay on the main loop and you will come to an intersection with the inner circles. Here you have the option of continuing on the main loop, going down to the inner circles and the Nature Station, or make a short levee walk to reach the North Loop.
The Vermillion River and Dan Debaillon Canal contain different sediment
When you reach the road turn right, cross the bridge and head down to the trailhead on the right. A short spur trail takes you to the main loop (Moonseed Loop) and you can start by going right or left. For this guide I went to the right. This trail is mostly in the woods and doesn't go near the canal, except for a short spur trail along the Vermillion River. After .5 mile you come to the .25 mile Crawfish Cut which is a cut-through trail. Take this trail to eliminate a mile or so off of your hike. After about a mile you come to a spur trail which takes you down to the levee and to where the canal meets the river. It's really neat to see the different sediment content of the two bodies of water meet. Head back to the main trail and after a few yards the Vermillion Ridge trail begins on your right. This .5 mile trail follows along the Vermillion River and links back up with the main loop. Finish the loop, head back over the bridge, go back to the South Loop and the intersection with the inner loop (I know, there's a lot of trails here!). Now when I did this trail I avoided the western side of the South Loop due to flooding so I took the inner circles to head back to the Nature Station and finish my hike.
The trails here are great for kids as there are a lot of different options and plenty of ways to get back to the Nature Station if they poop out on you! Having the ability to be immersed in nature so close to Lafayette is really a gift. To anyone wanting to visit from other areas, the Nature Station and trails are minutes from I-10 and very easy to find.