BHPC Trip Information

Indian Bayou Paddle Trail Network by Juliette Navratilova

The Indian Bayou Paddle Trails encompass a wide variety of trail types. From short trips and out-and-back paddles to longer overnight trips crossing vastly different environments to easily accessible scenic loops within Henderson Lake, there are many options here.

At the north end of the Indian Bayou Section, one can paddle Bayou Courtableu and Bayou Duquesne south through a mature forest of towering Cypress and Black Gum trees. On ridges behind the waterway are large Nuttal’s Oaks, Willow Oaks and White Oaks. In the understory, paddlers will see Maple, Persimmon, Ash, and young Native Pecan. Here too is found Louisiana’s native Wisteria, differentiated from the common oriental variety by shorter flower clusters (4-6” instead of 6-15”). All mannner of birds may be seen: Herons (blue,white, yellow crowned), Egrets, Kingfishers, Pileated Woodpeckers... and if paddlers are lucky, they may see deer, beaver, otter or alligator.

If paddlers elect to return to the south Bayou Cortableu Launch, via the Bayou Courtableu Canal, they will see numerous rustic fishing camps, places local residents use for recreation and respite while hunting and fishing and crawfishing in this naturally productive area.

Those continuing south on Bayou Fordoche will soon experience more sunlight and less forest canopy, the result of timber harvesting in this area. This has allowed the release of pioneer and understory species such as Willow, Honey Locust, and Blue Beech, and the aquatic Button Bush. Paddlers may see more Hawks and Kites, Redwing Blackbirds and other perching birds, or waterfowl during winter months. After crossing an open area through which passes a large powerline, the vegetation becomes less disturbed and more scenic. Once again, intact forest lines the Trail. As one descends the trail, the stream becomes wider.

Approximately 12 miles south from the Bayou Courtableu Launch, paddlers will enter Lake Fordoche, a beautiful secluded lake surrounded by almost inpenetrable forest. Conservationists have erected a number of Wooduck boxes in this area to provide nesting cavities for these beautiful birds. Paddlers may may elect to exit the trail on the southwest side of Lake Fordoche via Bayou Racaccious, proceeding to the Dixie Pipeline Canal and Landing, or they may continue south to Henderson Lake via Bayou Racaccious or Little Bayou Fordoche. At this point, paddlers will see numerous watercourses entering or exiting the trail as the terrain becomes more swamplike and less stream like. This is an indication that one is near the north shore of Henderson Lake.

Henderson Lake is a vast waterbody lined with lovely Cypress trees which grow well out into the water and throughout the lake. If one pays attention, one may be lucky enough to see a tree crowned with a large mass of sticks, the nest of the Osprey that make their home here. Nesting Osprey are very sensitive to disturbances, so please observe them from a distance. Also visible are oil production platforms, another natural resource produced in the Basin. Some are active, some are abandoned, some are as small as a boat, some as large as an office building. There are a number of choices for crossing Henderson lake, but oilfield canals on the west side will allow travel when water levels in the flats are too low, or obscured by mats of Water Hyacinth.
Tracks across Henderson Flats as well as portions of the trail northward will dry out when the water level at Butte la Rose drops below @ 7’.

At the northern end and the southern end of the Indian Bayou Area are several scenic loops or out-and-back trips where a paddler can easily access some of the most scenic places in this area. At the north end, Two O’Clock Bayou is a stunningly beautiful little bayou accessed from the Half Moon Bay Boat Landing and a paddle through Adam’s Bayou and Craft Lake. At the south end, within Henderson Lake, is a Southwest Scenic Loop and just outside the southeast border of Henderson Lake is a Southeast Scenic Loop. The Southwest Scenic Loop winds through a beautiful grove of aquatic Cypress trees growing out into the lake. It can be accessed from the Bayou Fordoche Trail to the north, or several different private boat landings lining the southwest shore of Henderson Lake, or from the Butte la Rose Visitor’s Center to the northwest. The Southeast Scenic Loop meanders through a remote and little traveled corner of this area. It can be paddled directly from the Visitor’s Center or can be accessed from any of the other trails in henderson Lake.

Paddlers wishing to access Paddle Trails further south may start or continue south from Henderson Lake via Cypress Point into Butte la Rose Bay. As they near Butte la rose, the southern Bank is lined with camps with such whimsical names as “ Camp Y Knot”, “Swamp Breeze", "Kick Back Shack”, and “Black Pot Camp”.

For maps of the area, go to http://www.bayoutrails.org

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