Heart of Louisiana: Fountainebleau State Park

MANDEVILLE, La. (WAFB) – As the weather starts to warm in the coming weeks, you may be ready to head outdoors and one of the most popular parks in the state is located less than an hour from New Orleans.

It should be no surprise that Louisiana’s busiest state park is located between its two largest metro areas – New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Fountainbleau State Park, near Mandeville, is on the shoreline of Lake Pontchartrain. It’s sandy beach, fishing pier, and nature walks make it a great getaway.

“It’s close to the city,” said Nick Lanson, a hiker. “It’s so accessible. It’s beautiful. We got some bird life right now and probably have some alligators over here.”

And Fountainbleau’s trails take you from thick forest to a long boardwalk, over a sprawling salt marsh at the edge of the lake. At Fountainbleau, you can also get out on the water in a rented kayak or canoe. And when you do that, you get an entirely different view of the bayous and the landscape.

“We get a lot of alligators,” said Jeff Bordelon, owner of Bayou Adventures, which provides canoe and kayak rentals next to the park.

“What makes it special is how authentic and raw the paddle is. Everything on our right is part of Fountainbleau State Park, and then, everything on our left over here is part of Big Branch National Wildlife Refuge,” added Bordelon.

If your preferred mode of transportation is two wheels, the 28-mile long Tammany Trace bike trail passes through the park.

“It’s very pretty; a lot of overhanging canopy, so you’re riding through a tunnel of trees and vegetation,” said Jeff Gephart, a biker.

“It’s very pretty; a lot of overhanging canopy, so you’re riding through a tunnel of trees and vegetation,” said Jeff Gephart, a biker., many of them with full hookups for campers and RVs. And if you don’t have one of those, Fountainbleau is one of the first state parks to offer glamping, which includes a tent, comfortable bed, picnic table, and a fire pit.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for people who aren’t wanting to dedicate hundreds of dollars to camping equipment and still want that experience,” said Patrick McPike, camp host.

Fountainbleau has history that goes back to the early years of New Orleans and another 2,500 years to when this area was home to native people.

“They found an impressive amount of pottery,” said Stephanie Huber, with Fountainebleau State Park. “It was 47,000 pottery fragments that were between the two middens.”

French Creole nobleman Bernard Demarigny was developing land beyond New Orleans French Quarter. He owned a plantation at Fountainbleau.

“Who used this area to make it a plantation and the sugar mill here where they are used to process the sugar crop,” said Fouuad Harb, park manager.

You can see the ruins of the sugar mill Demarigny built nearly 200 years ago. One of my favorite things about this state park is the sunsets over the lake, the gold and orange sky framed by moss-draped cypress trees along the shoreline. It’s a place where you can swap the congestion and noise of cities and suburbs for the soothing sights and sounds of nature.

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