Hidden in the piney woods of the Mississippi Delta of northeastern Louisiana is a tiny, but sparkling, jewel of Louisiana State Parks.
Lake Bruin State Park offers a serene camping getaway on an oxbow lake created 500 years ago, when the Mississippi River changed its course. Cypress trees, some nearly as old as the oxbow lake, create a peaceful environment for fishing, camping or just enjoy nature.
The property on which the park is located was donated to the State by the Debusant family in the early 1920s. The State operated the area as a Department of Wildlife and Fisheries fish hatchery from the 1920s to the late 1940s, when the property was turned over to the Louisiana Parks Commission. But even today, the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries keeps Lake Bruin stocked with bass, bream, white perch and sac-a-lait.
Fishing is the main draw to the park, with local clubs holding tournaments there during the spring and summer. While most oxbow lakes are not conducive to fishing, the currents of the Mississippi River left Lake Bruin with a depth and a sand bed that is biologically well equipped for fish population.
In addition to prime fishing, the park offers a lake for swimming and access to plenty of surrounding country roads and the Mississippi River levee for triathlons and other running/biking events. A recent 5K wound its way through the park, bringing in over 200 visitors cheering on the participants.
The beauty of the park also has provided a romantic venue for weddings, in the brick pavilion that dates back to the 1960s, and marriage proposals on the piers. One guest that visits the park several times annually proposed to his first wife on one of the piers and they visited the park yearly; he has continued the visits with his current wife, children and grandchildren; in fact, this 91-year-old veteran is known to ride a jet-ski on the lake during his visits.
The lakefront area is popular with day-use visitors for picnics and lounging in the shade of the massive cypress trees. The area has long been popular for enjoying the view of the lake, with the remains of bench support posts embedded in the sidewalk that faces out over the water.
The remains of the old fish hatchery can still be seen, if you know where to look for them. The main road through the park was built on top of the existing levee, with camping set in the beds of the former hatchery ponds.
An alligator pond that continued operation even after the Louisiana Parks Commission took over the property is now the location of the day-use area restrooms. An interesting piece of architecture - the water control for the main hatchery pond - still exists, in the picnic area.
The 9-foot tall concrete structure, with still-visible grooves where planks of wood were inserted to control the water flow, has been dubbed "Frankenstein's Gravestone" by some of the locals.
Lake Bruin State Park, located just four miles north of St. Joseph, offers overnight camping and picnic areas for day-use visitors.
For more information about the park, visit LaStateParks.com.