HODGES GARDENS STATE PARK
A Lakeside Paradise of Gardens, Fountains, Waterfalls & Wildlife
By Nancy J. Reid
One of the highlights of our visit to Louisiana was our stay at Hodges Gardens State Park. There are 700 acres of beauty to explore. Formal gardens are bordered by waterfalls and lake views and natural gardens have pools and fountains with bridges that lead you from one flowered pathway to another. The gardens were built on an abandoned rock quarry by the former owner, A.J. Hodges, so there are plenty of natural rock formations and terraced gardens. There is also a 225-acre man-made lake that provides the water for all the waterfalls, fountains and pools strategically placed within the gardens.
The colorful serenity of Hodges Garden State Park is a perfect backdrop for birding and wildlife viewing anytime of the year. We saw plenty of geese, herons, egrets, ducks and forest birds, and learned that there are usually a couple of pairs of bald eagles that return to the gardens each year to breed. It is not uncommon to see small mammals and deer while out strolling, and of course, there are lots of turtles sunning themselves on logs. If you are quiet enough, you can sometimes snap a picture before they splash back into the water. Sitting at a picnic bench enjoying a quiet drink, we were surprised to see a comical armadillo come out from his burrow and root around in the grass.
One of the best ways to experience the bird life is by kayaking or canoeing. This is a great way to get close to the wading birds without disturbing them and you will see plenty of turtles swimming from one log to another. Each morning the geese, a mixture of Canadian and Snow geese, make their way across the lake to visit the cabin area, providing entertainment while you enjoy a cup of coffee out on the private deck. We found early morning drives the best time to see deer in the forested areas, and late afternoon to dusk, the best time to walk the gardens. It’s incredible to see what used to be an eyesore turned into such an amazingly beautiful place and made available for the use of the general public. There are plenty of secluded spots to have a picnic, but we highly recommend an overnight (or two) stay.
Another great feature is the Lakeshore Stage where concerts, festivals and other events are held. Especially popular are the Easter Sunrise Service, the Louisiana Festival of Roses, Arts & Crafts Festival and the Christmas Festival of Lights.
You can rent one or two room cabins, which are immaculate and truly well equipped with everything you will need for your stay, except food. There is also a Group Camp, dormitory-style facility for private functions, or you can tent camp. You can hike, cycle or horseback ride throughout the 700 acres of both wild and formal gardens and trails. Small boats, canoes and kayaks can be rented and if you have a valid Louisiana Fishing License, you may fish.
We visited Hodges Gardens State Park in summer 2014. Located in Sabine Parish near the Toledo Bend Reservoir of the Sabine River, the park is just off the El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail, and about a 1 hour drive from Cane River Creole National Historical Park and Cane River National Heritage Area.
Hodges Gardens State Park is located at 1000 Hodges Loop, Florien, LA 71429. For more information and reservations please call 1-877-226-7652 or visit www.lastateparks.com.
Hodges Gardens State Park