OUTDOOR CORNER: State’s recreation areas offer chance to view wildlife up close

Lyle Johnson
“Rocky” the racoon peers out of his sleeping bag that’s in a hammock at the Cypress Black Bayou Park and Recreation Area.

While I was spending one of the most exciting times I’ve ever had centered around bass fishing at the Bassmaster Classic in Shreveport/Bossier City, Tarah Holland of the tourism bureau arranged a short tour of a few of the region’s many places to visit.

The first was Cypress Black Bayou Park & Recreation Area, a short drive from the city located in Benton, just fifteen minutes north of Bossier City. One of the park’s borders is Cypress Lake, a 2200 acre pristine body of water that offers great fishing, boating, and swimming.

We were greeted by one of the rangers on staff and began our tour by a short walk to the petting zoo. The zoo is actually a rehab center for injured and displaced wildlife of all sorts and is comprised of birds and animals that can’t be returned to the wild, so they will be kept there and taken care of for the rest of their lives.

It offers an excellent opportunity to view wildlife up close although you can’t pet all of the creatures because some of them might take a nip at your fingers thinking you have some food for them.

Our next stop was the Cypress Nature Study Center and we were fortunate enough to find Melissa Whittington, the education director of the facility there along with some scouts doing some volunteer clean up work.

Whittington is a teacher and actually works for the Bossier school system. The dedicated educator hosts school groups from all over the area and “schools” them on all sorts of wildlife biology. She also hosts other educators and gives them the “bird’s eye view” of the outdoors and educates them on the importance of introducing students to the outdoors.

The facility is a small museum of wildlife displays both preserved and alive. It’s also loaded with platforms to view our native Louisiana wildlife in its natural habitat. And after spending some time in the center you can take off on walking for an up-close view and enjoy up to four miles of gorgeous hiking trails that travel through the park.

For those that love to spend their time relaxing while camping, the park has opportunities for every aspect one could imagine. There are 73 RV sites if you like to hook and stay a while. There are cabins, cottages and huts that offer all the accommodations of home all the way to totally roughing it. They even offer primitive camping grounds where one can bring a tent and really rough it.

The place offers a few boat launches if you’d like to bring your boat with you and spend some time on the water. There are covered fishing piers that are lighted for night fishing and even a beach with sand where even way up north in our state one could take in the “coastal” experience.

You can get all the info at or give them a call at (318) 965-0007. You can spend a few hours, a day or a week or two relaxing in this pristine, outdoor park but you better call early for reservations on holiday weekends if you want to RV if you know what I mean.

Another spot that really grabbed my attention was Sci-Port, Louisiana’s Science Center. This facility is a 92,000-square-foot facility complete with hundreds of hands-on exhibits, workshops, science shows and eight interactive areas. And when they say interactive, they mean it! From the toddler to the adult, there’s something you can get your hands on and complete the visual experience.

It also houses the world’s only interactive, laser space planetarium. No longer do you watch the stars, but in the new Space Center you engage in the stars through interactive exhibits. Sci-Port houses the only IMAX Dome Theater in the state. In the September 2008 issue of Parents magazine, Sci-Port Discovery Center has been recognized as one of the top 10 science centers in the country. This place is worth the ride up north.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) will enforce their turkey-tagging regulations during the 2009 turkey season so all you turkey hunters need to become familiar with the steps in the process before the season begins.

“The Wildlife Division is very interested in the data that will be collected through the turkey tag reporting procedure now in place,” said Jimmy Anthony, assistant secretary for LDWF’s Office of Wildlife.  “Turkey hunters should find the process easy to use, and anyone who hunted deer during the season just completed will be familiar with how the new reporting mechanism works.”

Before you head to the woods to hunt turkey this season in Louisiana, all hunters, regardless of age or license status, must obtain turkey tags and carry them when hunting.  Just about anywhere you can obtain a license, the tags will be issued free of charge.

As soon as you harvest a turkey, follow these steps: Tag the turkey with the appropriate Carcass Tag from the license before it is moved and document the kill on the Harvest Report Card portion of the turkey tag. The tag must remain attached to the turkey while kept at camp, or while it is transported to the domicile of the hunter.

Validate the harvest by toll-free phone at 866-484-4805 or via the Internet at Record the validation number obtained by phone or Internet on the Harvest Report Card. Get all the info on this new procedure at

Hey, springtime is just about here so remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. So until next time have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God truly bless you.

A great horned owl is waiting to released into the wild at the Cypress Black Bayou Park and Recreation Area.