My sons and I have enjoyed several tent camping trips in Louisiana and southern Mississippi. Sometimes, their friends have gone with us, and one trip was a church youth trip (which you’ll agree, aren’t typical camping trips.)
Caney Lake Campground - above Minden was a fun trip with our cousins. We all shared a campsite and everyone managed to find a space to spread out their sleeping bag in one of two tents. This was a quick, one-night weekend trip but we all enjoyed hiking around the small lake.
Lake Claiborne - In October of ‘21 we had a boys trip to Lake Claiborne State Park northwest of Ruston, Louisiana. With one son enrolled at Tech, this allowed him to join his younger brother and I for a night of tent camping over the weekend. We selected site #41 in loop 2 which does have frontage on an inlet of the lake, has a nearby dock, and is close to the boardwalk across the lake inlet to loop 1 which includes the swim beach and day-use area. This was a comparatively large camp site that had plenty of flat ground upon which to pitch a family-size tent. Many of the campsites in Claiborne are geared for pull-in campers on asphalt pads and lack space to pitch a tent. We watched YouTube videos by park visitors to help choose from available sites. Loaded in or on the van with us for this trip was our dog and our canoe. Both made the trip more fun. Site $41 is immediately across from the campground host site and they themselves had at least three dogs. (yes, really.)
We enjoyed sunny days and nights cool enough to sleep though we did bring a box fan inside the tent. All enjoyed paddling the canoe on the beautiful lake. The water was a bit chilly for swimming so we took the dog for hikes around the campground loops. The bathrooms were reasonably clean. My only complaint was behavior of the campground hosts who decided to use their leaf blower around their site for about two hours on an otherwise peaceful Sunday morning. The husband drove a loud-as-heck John Deer utility vehicle around at all hours as well. Earlier that Sunday morning at least one other RV camper felt the need to blow leaves off the roof of his 3rd wheel before packing up and departing the campground. Why is it that folks need to do this? I understand people’s travel plans sometimes require them to rise early, pack up and leave. But why is their convenience a priority over the peace and quite experience that other campers have paid to enjoy - on a Sunday morning.
I expect that I will return to Lake Claiborne or other campgrounds in north central Louisiana while my son is studying at Louisiana Tech. The beautiful scenery overcome the rudeness of others.
Grand Isle beach camping
I took my young sons on an overnight beach camping trip to Grand Isle State Park when they were in elementary school. We did have fun, particularly when they made friends with some older high school boys who were camping next to us. We all had fun swimming in the Gulf and the constant action and clanging of shrimp trawlers was interesting. This noise continued through the night which made sleep challenging. Also noisy is the frequent helicopter flights to and from the offshore petroleum platforms.
Grand Isle is an interesting place to visit and is thick with history, bird-life and fishing opportunities. I wouldn’t return if my intention was primarily to enjoy a beautiful beach with clear water. Gulf Shores Alabama is the same distance from home and much nicer.
Intent on spending a longer time hiking in southwest Mississippi’s Clark Creek Natural Area (within the Tunica hills region) I found the private Tunica Hills Campground just south of the state line in Louisiana. I enjoyed the evening there with my boys. We parked our minivan down near the road and were hauled to the campsite with our gear by the camp host driving a 4-wheel vehicle. This was necessary as the loop road through the campground was quite primitive but it has the benefit of keeping everyone else’s car out of the campground also, making for a quieter experience. The boys especially enjoyed riding on that 4-wheeler. Toilets were port-o-lets and water was a shared faucet several campsites away. So, it’s primitive, but that made for a nice experience.
The next day we packed up camp, hitched a ride to our van on the host’s 4-wheeler, and made the short drive north to Clark Creek. Bring $5 CASH for parking fee collected in the honor box. There is nobody to make change for you and enforcement does occur periodically throughout the day. You’ll receive a ticket if you didn’t fill out an envelope and pay your fee.
Hiking through the hills and exploring the streams and waterfalls is a unique experience for flatlanders from south Louisiana. My boys always have a good time, splashing in the water if weather permits. The place can get crowded (and parking is limited) on beautiful weekend days so arrive early.
Tickfaw River State Park
I’ve camped at Tickfaw with my sons on one occasion, and returned for day trips to paddle my canoe. Much of the campground area is flood-prone. This isn’t so terrible if you’re in a trailer or camper, but if it’s been raining it isn’t much fun in a tent. Most of the sites have raised sand platforms upon which to pitch your tent for this reason. It is a pretty destination and worth a visit, just don’t go during or following periods of heavy rain. They won’t rent canoes when the Tickfaw River is high, so call ahead if you suspect this might be an issue.
Bogue Chitto State Park
I’ve only camped at Bogue Chitto once and that was a solo visit where my primary intent was stargazing with my telescope. I sought out the most remote site I could find in the primitive camp area and for most of the afternoon had the place to myself as I paddled my canoe in an adjacent pond. Eventually, a camper trailer pulled in across the circle which would have been fine if they didn’t put up a string of white lights all around their campsite. This adversely affected my night sky observations. Just bad luck I suppose.
I did go walk along the river but did not arrange with the concessionaire to shuttle me and my canoe to/from put-in and take-out points.
Fontainebleau State Park
Fontainebleau is located on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain and is a beautiful and historic property having ruins of a sugar mill, a pier in the lake, bike trails and more. The campground is large and when we went on an overnight adventure with the church youth group it was noisy and tiring. The noise wasn’t necessarily from our group but from the campground as a whole. Many groups stayed awake late into the night talking, playing games and playing music.
I suppose the plain truth is that while I like camping, I dislike one-night trips because you spend too much of your time setting up or cleaning up and not enough time just relaxing and exploring. My positive impressions of Fontainebleau are based also on several daytrips spent simply walking around the historic features of the park or wading into the lake at the beach area. This year I plan to return with my canoe and paddle Cane Bayou which forms the east boundary of the bark.
See also my south Mississippi Camping post describing tent camping adventures at several campgrounds in southern Mississippi.