The Acadiana Park Nature Trail is a 150 acre tract of land with 6 miles of hiking trails. The original 43-acre tract was purchased by the City of Lafayette in 1967. This is where the nature station museum is located and 2 ½ miles of hiking trail. The remaining 107 acres was acquired through grants over several years. In 2014, this 107 acre tract was opened to the public with 3 ½ miles of hiking trails.
This land has been maintained in an unaltered state to provide a wooded oasis in the midst of sprawling urbanization. It is the goal of the Acadiana Park Nature Station staff to retain this forest complex as a living record of this areas natural landscape.
Historical Human Inhabitants
Acadiana Park has been a popular camping area for over 5,000 years! The earliest visitors, however, differed greatly from their modern counterparts. Attracted by the high, dry land of the Mississippi River escarpment and the close proximity to navigable waters, at least two groups of Native Americans utilized the land that is now within park boundaries.
Evidence in the form of various artifacts indicates that the arrival of the park’s first human visits occurred about 3,000 BC This prehistoric group of people is referred to by archaeologists as Archaic Indians. The paucity of the stone implements recovered indicates that these ancient people utilized this area more as a hunting camp.
A later group of natives settled here between 1200 and 1600 AD - a larger and obviously more advanced group. An abundance of shell-tempered potsherds indicates that women were also present with this group.
The earliest non-native occupation of this area is that of a French settler named Pierre Dugat, who arrived here in the late 1700’s. He laid claim to 675 acres through a Spanish Land Grant (Spain owned what is now Louisiana during this period). Dugat constructed a large home on the escarpment and developed the surrounding lands into a plantation.
All soils of Acadiana Park are alluvial in nature, and the dates and methods of deposition have resulted in a topography unique to southwestern Louisiana. Upon entering the park, first-time visitors are often surprised to find a series of sloping hills in this region, which is typically known for being very flat. These hill-like formations actually represent the Mississippi River escarpment which divides this area into floodplain and prairie ecosystems.
The prairie terrace is comprised largely of loess-covered alluvial deposits. The time of deposition of these sediments has been estimated to have occurred between 80-100,000 years ago by the early Pleistocene Gulf of Mexico. In almost direct opposition to these prairie soils is the Mississippi River floodplain and its associated formations. This area, in the northern portion of the park, was formed as a result of an ancient meandering of the Mississippi River. Approximately 6,000 years ago, the Mississippi River occupied a more westerly course, and the present-day Bayou Vermilion functioned as a major distributary to it. In areas where the adjacent Mississippi flowed, very deep trenches developed to accept the tremendous volumes of water draining from the entire Mississippi Basin as a result of rapidly melting glaciers that signaled the close of the Ice Age. When the ancient Mississippi River was active in this region, protions of such trenches ran as deep as 300 feet. The river occupied this course for about 1,300 years. As glacier meltwater subsided, these gaping trenches were gradually filled with rich, black, clay-like sediments. The resulting floodplain forest seen at Acadiana Park is only a minuscule representation of a vast ecosystem which extends from the Gulf of Mexico to Tennessee and ranges 40-100 miles in width.
Today, the active body within the park is the François Coulee (also known as the Dan Debaillon Coulee). François Coulee drains from west to east near the northern edge of the park, following the old Mississippi River meander. In spring, its waters contain largemouth bas, bluegill and channel catfish. Autumn finds the coulee encrusted with a small floating aquatic plant called duckweek (Lemna sp.), and supporting another community of fishes that include bowfin (locally known as choupique) and spotted gar. The term “coulee” is from the French word couler, meaning “to flow.”
Together with topography and soil types, climate is a major factor in determining the ecology of any region. Southern Louisiana enjoys a rather mild, humid, subtropical climate that becomes less than tolerable only a few weeks in midsummer and midwinter. Generally, regional weather patterns are tempered by warm, moist, subtropical air from the Gulf of Mexico. The northerly flow of gulf air is also responsible for rather high annual rainfall totals that often exceed 60 inches.
We have approximately 6 miles of hiking trails at the Acadiana Park Nature Station. On our main property, there are about 2½ miles of hiking trails that are surrounded by the Dan Deballion Canal and Francois Coulee. Here you will find a boardwalk that will keep you off of the ground and is wheelchair accessible. You will also find many dirt trails that run through our forest and along the Dan Deballion Canal. Across the canal, we have our North Property hiking trails that are about 3½ miles. Because we do not yet have a bridge that crosses the canal, we recommend that you drive to the parking area located on Shadow Bluff, which is next to the Dan Deballion Canal bridge. These trails are dirt trails in a bottomland hardwood forest, please be aware there may be standing water after heavy rainfall.
- These trails are for foot traffic only.
- Bicycles or other wheeled vehicles are not allowed on any of our trails. We do however welcome wheelchairs and strollers on our boardwalk.
- Dogs are welcome, as long as they are leashed.
- All wildlife is protected, please don’t harass, disturb, or harm ANY wildlife. Please don’t remove plants, animals or dead wood.
- Please pack out what you have packed in. Please do not litter.
- Camping is not allowed in this preserve. However there is a campground at Acadiana Park. For more information call 337-291-8388. Leave a message, someone will return your call.