“Alligators, Wildlife, Oh My! “
8 Tips to Maximize Your Experience on Pintail Drive
August 3, 2021
In the wildlife-rich bayous of Southwest Louisiana, a simple drive down LA-27 towards the Gulf of Mexico from Lake Charles takes you by a gem that will wow young and old alike. It is a 9,621-acre area full of wildlife, alligators, and migratory birds. Officially known as Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge, Pintail Drive, and Boardwalk. This refuge is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and is open year-round. There is no fee to enter this drive-thru experience. A simple entrance sign indicates the location. Pull in, drive slowly and start your adventure. Oh, and have your camera or phone ready to take pictures.
Shortly after entering the one-way road, a parking area is present for a boardwalk stroll through the wetland. At the time of this blog (August 2021), the boardwalk was closed due to damage from 2020 hurricanes that battered the area. Hopefully, it will reopen soon, as walking on the boardwalk through the wetlands is a genuine experience.
As you proceed on the three-mile drive that encompasses a portion of the refuge and migratory rest stop, keep your eyes peeled for the local ‘residents’. Abundant opportunities for photography of flora and fauna may present themselves. Keep in mind, as with all living things, it is a changing area, and depending on weather, temperatures, sun out or not, this will all contribute to what is out and about while you visit.
Watch the canals full of water for ‘gator eyes sticking up above the water line, watch banks for sunning alligators as well. Ducks and wading birds are typically the easiest to spot. Varieties of fowl and animals you may spot include: roseate spoonbill; snowy, great or cattle egrets; a variety of herons; a variety of ducks; nutria; and alligators, among a host of other animals. Winter and spring are abundant in bird populations as it is the migratory path for most.
The habitats consist of fresh marsh, coastal prairie, and old rice fields. It seems like you can see forever.
Be watchful of alligators in the road, crossing the road, or lying next to the road. It has been obvious as of the summer of 2021 that someone has been feeding one and it has begun to show aggression for food. Do not feed any of the wildlife out there, especially the alligators. If the alligators show aggression, the wildlife officials have indicated that they will have to destroy the animal. This would not be necessary if people would refrain from feeding them.
As you drive, take your time and watch for the alligators, once you learn to spot them you will be surprised at how many you will recognize in the water. Once when driving through we saw 86 alligators. We have seen close to 100 on another trip through.
8 Tips for Pintail Drive
1. Drive slow. You can’t see some of the wildlife if you are driving fast.
2. Don’t feed the alligators or other wildlife. This will cause them to recognize vehicles as a source of food and become aggressive. Enjoy nature as it exists.
3. Take tons of pictures.
4. Stay in your vehicle during the route unless someplace is marked otherwise.
5. Before going to this area, make sure you fuel up first and grab snacks or food. The hurricane devastated the area and as of the summer of 2021, there are no gas stations and only a food truck or two in Cameron, which is 25.6 miles to the southwest.
6. Don’t harass the wildlife. They know you are there. This is their home, appreciate and respect them in their space.
7. Don’t litter. Whatever you bring in, you have to bring back out.
8. Don’t pick any flora present. Admire the landscape with your eyes and a camera or phone.
More information about Pintail Drive and the Cameron Prairie Wildlife area can be found at:
(Note in the information link above it mentions a visitor center. The visitor center is currently closed due to damage from the 2020 hurricanes.)
Take care and safe travels,