Lake Martin

Lake Martin is the type of setting that many people imagine when they think of Louisiana. It is a broad shallow lake full of Cypress and Tupelo stands which teems with aquatic life, including many species of amphibians and reptiles. The rookery at the lake rivals any on this continent. Lake Martin is located just across the St. Martin Parish line from Lafayette. To reach it, drive southeast from Lafayette on Highway 94, the "Breaux Bridge Highway" (by the way, the "eaux" in "breaux" is pronounced as the English letter "O"). Just outside of Lafayette, Highway 94 drops noticeably into the Mississippi River floodplain. Right near the bottom of the hill, there is a right hand turn. This is Highway 353. Take it, and go about 5 miles until you see a sign for "Lake Martin Rookery Road" on the left. This road makes a half-circle around one end of the lake, and continues as a walking trail around the other half.

After turning off the highway, you will see a barricade to your left as you pass. This is where the walking trail and the driving road part ways. This end of the lake is a Cypress and Buttonbush thicket where tens of thousands of waders including Little Blue Herons, Great, Snowy, and Cattle Egrets, White Ibis (extremely numerous), Roseate Spoonbills (a recent addition to the rookery), and Night-Herons nest in summer. This is also a good area in summer for Barred and Great Horned Owls, Pileated, Hairy, Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and Parula, Prothonotary and Yellow-throated Warblers. In winter this stretch is great for Rusty Blackbirds.

The walking trail at this end of the lake offers unhurried looks at the rookery. However, watch out for alligator nests, which are basically big mounds of dirt, leaves, etc. The mothers guard these intently, and they will leave the water to ward you off.
Fall migration along this stretch usually yields huge flocks of buntings, and a variety of other songbirds as well.

Driving on the road, the rookery is also visible, but you of course have to deal with occasional traffic. There is a small coulee running along the road which is good for waders, Rusty Blackbirds in winter, and Rough-winged Swallows on the lines above in fall. Farther down the road, the area around the boat landing offers an unobstructed view into the center of the lake, and a great place to view the sunset.

If you prefer to drive to the far end of the walking trail (as walking all the way there from the end near the entrance means walking a few miles), go beyond the landing to where the road ends. Walk beyond the barricade, and you will find yourself in an area where both Indigo and Painted Buntings nest, and good looks at Anhingas can be gotten. During Fall migration, this stretch can be outstanding for warblers, especially in the ragweed thickets (it's worth sneezing for).