Walking the Red River National Wildlife Refuge Trails

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.

A photo of Lake Caroline in Bossier City
Lake Caroline, as seen from the Lake Bluff Trail.

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.

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