Camping in the Sicily Island Hills

Posted: September 28, 2009 in Homepage

The silence of the morning is replaced by a symphony of birds, as they orchestrate their movements in the thick canopy of trees at Sicily Island Hills. The deep, dark night sky, far from city lights, that dazzled you with a million beautiful stars is replaced by a brilliant sunrise.

A camp stove begins to take the edge off the chilly morning air and nearby campers awaken to begin their day anew. Off in the distance the piercing, maniacal screaming sound you hear may be the call of the Pileated Woodpecker, considered to be, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker not withstanding, Americas largest woodpecker. Later, the thundering sound of this majestic bird pounding its bill into trees announces its search for the insects its craves or the creation of a cavity for its nest. Many years ago, I was walking in the woods and  I watched a pair of these graceful woodpeckers chase each other up and around a large oak tree trunk. All of a sudden their chase took flight at eye level with me in their route. I dove for the ground and they never missed a beat. Every time I think about that chance encounter I smile. This is the scene as you begin your journey amidst the distinctive forest of Sicily Island Hills. One can observe nature in forests in other locations of Louisiana, but set against the backdrop of steep, deeply eroded hills with hiking trails leading to unexpected waterfalls, Sicily Island Hills is unparalleled.

The canvas of your odyssey will change with the seasons. Butterflies emerge from their chrysalis in search of a warm sunny spot. Fall foliage colors burst forth in late October and early November.  Numerous migratory birds such as hummingbirds and various warblers descend upon the area in spring and fall. Petite Ruby-crowned Kinglets visit in winter foraging for berries and seeds. Rock Falls and the other waterfalls of the area ebb and flow with periodic rains. Wildflowers fill woodlands with the luscious colors of Indian Pinks and  the edges of roads are painted with the bold colors of the daisy and goldenrod.

According to Lowery Moak  Region 4 Wildlife Biologist with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the campgrounds on both the north and south sections of the Sicily Island Hills Wildlife Management Area are primitive and can only be occupied for 16 days consecutively. Refer to the WMA Map link at left to see the campground locations.

Whether you bring a car, a tent, a motor home or a truck with slide in camper  come prepared to be self contained with respect to all services, including bathroom, electricity and water.  This is primitive camping at its best.

Before venturing into the Sicily Island Hills it would be a good idea to scout out the road conditions.The roads in this area are maintained well, but keep in mind that due to heavy rains, even the most well maintained roads become rough and rutted at times. The family car may not be your best choice. A pick up truck would be ideal. While there may be room for a large motor home at the primitive camping area, getting your motor home to the camping area may prove to be challenging. The roads within the wildlife management area have an unpaved surface and in places there may be steep curves with loose gravel. Trees near the edges of the sometimes narrow roadway may also be problematic if your motor home is very large.

So use common sense when planning to camp at Sicily Island Hills. It is as remote as  any place you will find in Louisiana. That is part of the raw beauty of this place, but it  comes with the price of respecting its wildness. You may find at different times of the year that you are quite alone at the campground. At other times, especially during hunting season, you will find fellow campers quite numerous.

Cell phone service can be erratic within the Sicily Island Hills. If you do decide to camp there, be sure to let someone know when and where you plan to camp. Furthermore, let that same person know when you plan to return. Nature lovers that explore the great outdoors have been known to get lost or injured. Letting someone know your plans beforehand could be a lifesaver. Most importantly, let someone know of your safe return so that a search and rescue mission is not needlessly carried out. Refer to my Resources page for more information on the area.

Enjoying the outdoor experience comes with a great deal of responsibility. The rewards are immense to those who explore wisely.

Possession of a valid  fishing or hunting license or a Wild Louisiana Stamp is required when visiting a Louisiana state wildlife management area. For as little as $5.50 you can visit this or any of the many splendid wildlife management areas owned by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Remember to pack out what you take in so as not to spoil this beautiful place. With thoughtful visitors and wise management practices,  the Sicily Island Hills will provide many wonderful opportunities to intimately connect with the fauna and flora of this unique habitat for generations to come.

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