Dig Baton Rouge

Hiking on the Bayou

By Chase Berenson

When driving north on I-59, mere feet before crossing the border from Louisiana into Mississippi, there’s an odd little exit off the Interstate.

There is no town or true destination off the exit, and the ramp itself turns into a dirt road just as you leave the highway. The only clue to what lies off the exit is a brown sign on the highway that announces the Holmes Bayou Trail.

By following the dirt road for approximately four miles, weaving in and out of the Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge and passing small groupings of rural homes, one eventually comes to the trailhead for the Holmes Bayou Trail on the left-hand side of the road.

The trail itself is just barely inside the Refuge and allows for hikers to access the banks of the beautiful Holmes Bayou.

It’s an “out-and-back” trail and is about a mile and a half long roundtrip. The trail is flat and is easily accessible to pretty much anyone that wants to explore the woods in the area.

Despite being flat, though, there is a fair amount of underbrush growing on the trail, as well as some creepy-crawlies like spiders and worms, so boots or at least a pair of sneakers are recommended. The trail meanders through a cypress bottomland and is shaded the entire route through the woods.

Hikers who check out this trail can be rewarded by exploring the world of verdant greens that can only be found in the wooded swamps of south Louisiana.

Branches arc over the water of the Holmes Bayou. Photo by Chase Berenson
Branches arc over the water of the Holmes Bayou. Photo by Chase Berenson

Unfortunately, when hikers reach the shores of Holmes Bayou, there is little there to greet you aside from the bayou itself.

The trail used to have benches, but they seem to have disappeared (or at least have been overgrown) as nature is closing back in on this pathway. The shore of the bayou is still a nice place to relax and catch one’s breath, though.

By sitting still and quietly on the banks of the bayou, hikers can spot the birds that are attracted to the water and nest in nearby trees. Hikers who are planning to spend a bit of time at the bayou should also remember to be concerned about flying creatures much smaller than birds, and certainly don’t forget to bring mosquito spray!

It appears the trail was an old service road in its past life. The trail is about a car-width wide, and through patches of undergrowth there are bits of graded gravel visible here and there.

It is nice to see areas that are being closed off to motorized travel.

Even though fewer people now than in the past may get the opportunity to make it out to Holmes Bayou, those who do are rewarded by the opportunity to move at a human pace and truly appreciate nature on the bayou.

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