The Red River National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters Unit, located at 150 Eagle Bend Point in Bossier City (near the foot of the Jimmy Davis Bridge, accessed via the recently-opened extension of Arthur Ray Teague Parkway), is home to a diverse system of walking trails. Well maintained and clearly marked, the trails total about 6.5 miles in length, ranging from short, winding loops through the forest (like the 0.8 mile-long River Trail) to long, flat treks through meadows and swamps (such as the 1.4 mile-long Lake Bluff Trail). Several trails provide beautiful, scenic views of the Red River and Lake Caroline.
I am very much a beginning trail walker, but I was able to walk the entire trail system in about two hours. Upon arriving at the refuge headquarters, I’d recommend picking up a trail map at the visitor’s center (or download the trail map here), which is open 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Most of the Red River National Wildlife Refuge trails are exposed to direct sunlight for much of the day – for the most part, these are not forest trails. During the summer months, I’d definitely recommend wearing sunscreen, bringing a bottle of water, and wearing insect repellent. Despite the heat and the insects, this unique trail system provides an unforgettable walk.
On my walk, I saw raccoons, an alligator (at a safe distance!), and a wide variety of birds and butterflies. The diverse, unpredictable character of the land is the strongest selling point for these trails. The Orchard Trail is only half a mile in length, yet it passes through a meadow, parallels a levee and begins and ends in the forest. Two of the longest trails – the Lake Trail and the Lake Bluff Trail – are among the most remarkable. The Lake Trail runs along a ridge that divides two bayous. On either side, expect to be surrounded by egrets, wood ducks, and every kind of swamp wildlife imaginable. The Lake Bluff Trail is a narrow path that has been cut through a dense meadow that, on the day of my walk, was teeming with colorful butterflies.
The Red River National Wildlife Refuge is one of Shreveport-Bossier’s newest resources for outdoor recreation. I highly recommend it for hiking, mountain biking and fishing – there are reports of huge bass being caught on Lake Caroline, where a boat ramp is currently being installed (as of August 2013). It’s hard to believe that such peaceful wilderness can be found in the middle of the city – no more than a 10-minute drive from downtown Shreveport.