Camp Salmen Nature Park is one of a string of beautiful natural areas on the nature-blessed North Shore. Besides having amenities like picnic pavilions, historic structures, meeting places and scenic Bayou Liberty, the park has four miles of footpaths, bike trails and boardwalks for close-up observation of nature. With the Holidays upon us and lovely, cool weather, it’s a prime time to take a hike, get some exercise and enjoy the wonder of it all.
As you walk the one-mile length of the park you can see signs of how the land developed over time. The banks of Bayou Liberty and the main “Camp Ridge” part of the park were laid by pre-historic floods. The Salmen Lodge, originally an old trading post and early brickworks, are relics of the settlers and Native Americans in the early 1800s. The ancient Longleaf Pine forest that once stood on this land and the clays underneath were extracted at the turn of the last century by Fritz Salmen who left rail beds, clay pits and a generous gift to the Boy Scouts. During the next century the land recovered nicely with the help of Louisiana’s ideal “hothouse” climate. A mix of hardwoods, Slash pine, native and non-native plant species allow the landscape to continue to recover and evolve.
We have three trail systems:
- The BAYOU LIBERTY TRAIL (approx. ¼ mi.) next to the main parking lot includes the popular SWAMPWALK BOARDWALK through wetlands to an observation platform overlooking the quiet waters of the bayou. To the north of the boardwalk (upstream) is the Nature Garden and Outdoor Classroom and to the south (downstream) is the amphitheater and Salmen Lodge. Glimpses of the beautiful bayou are along the way.
- The asphalt BIKE PATH (approx. ½ mi.) is a spur from our future link to the Tammany Trace Bike Trail. It begins at the pavilion, crosses Goldfish Bayou, goes past Mary’s Grotto and follows the W-12 Canal to the gates to Slidell’s suburbs and the downtown end of the Trace.
- The MAIN TRAI L (approx. 1 mi.) begins in the corner of the field across Parish Parkway from Mary’s Grotto. Stay to the left, and except for a couple of short dead ends, goes through the woods all the way to the other end of the park. On the right are several loops and exits to the parkway. The GUM SWAMP BOARDWALK is the first trail to the right after the beginning of the trail and the PINE SAVANNAH BOARDWALK is at the other end, near the park entrance. Maps are in the Main Pavilion.
Different ecological zones are along the way: Flatwoods, bottomland, hardwood forest, old-growth pine, oak and pine savannah. Where the tree canopy has been opened up by Pine Beetle infestations, hurricanes, tornados, the Boy Scout camp and the nature park, sunlight is let in and these areas can appear scrubby and confused. The new vegetation sorts itself out through intense competition and the plant life begins another attempt to seek equilibrium.
You can’t get hopelessly lost, the park is too small and there are too many neighbors all around, but you do have to watch the time so you can get back to your car before 5:00 pm closing. A quicker path back to the beginning follows the edge of the woods along the parkway. Enjoy!