Heart of Louisiana: La. State Arboretum

Even on a cloudy morning, daybreak at Louisiana's Lake Chicot is a gentle wonder as the sky, the sturdy cypress, and the birds come to life.

"It's man-made. It was a natural, wet kind of swampy area with Bayou Chicot running through it, and in the 30's, the Civilian Conservation Corps built the longest levee, earthen levee, that they built anywhere in the U.S. and dammed up and formed the lake for the park," says Kim Hollier with the La. State Arboretum.

The entire 2,000 acre lake is part of Chicot State Park near Ville Platte. You can walk through swampy bottom lands, the prairie, and the beginning of Louisiana's hill country.

"When the kids come from south Louisiana they think they're in the mountains because it's so different from what they're used to," Hollier says.

The diverse landscape was chosen as the site for the Louisiana State Arboretum, a natural display of native trees and wildflowers.

"They're all native plants, everything in the forest is nature because we have all those different forest types already."

There is a new nature centers that explains the different types of forests and animals of Louisiana. You can see the native trees and flowers by walking six miles of trails, and you see the colors change with seasons.

"It's just a nice, calming, exciting experience. A lot of kids don't get to go out in nature and see these things normally. You can see flowers you've never seen before, you can just have a nice hike. I love this place," Hollier says.

A walk through the arboretum brings the natural side of Louisiana into focus. From the tiniest flowers and animals to the tallest trees, you can experience its gentle beauty.

At the state arboretum, you will see different wildflowers depending on the season. You can also spend a few nights at Chicot State Park which has cabins for rent.

For more information, go to http://www.crt.state.la.us/parks/ichicot.aspx