Set on both the Calcasieu River (pronounced cal-cuh-shoo) and the lake from which it takes its name, Lake Charles is a deep-water port and industrial center in the southwestern corner of the state. The industrial quality of the city tends to overshadow its other features. Visit the Imperial Calcasieu Museum (historical displays and an art gallery) and take a riding or walking tour of the historic district, which features many fine old homes.
The city's lakefront is now all but dominated by casinos, many of them from across the nearby Texas state line. Horse racing, a more traditional local gambling option, takes place at Delta Downs in nearby Vinton, where Thoroughbred racing takes place September-March and quarter-horse matches are April-August.
Although Lake Charles is recovering, the area between the city and the Gulf of Mexico suffered great damage from Hurricane Rita in 2005. The Creole Nature Trail (Highway 27) is open to vehicular traffic, but services are limited. This huge area contains marshes full of birds, ducks, geese, alligators, and a variety of flowers and plants. The highlight is the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge Walking Trail. Parts of this path into the marsh are planked over; others are raised dirt. (If alligators are blocking your way, just turn around and head back.) 180 mi/290 km west of New Orleans.
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