Lake Martin at Cypress Island Preserve
What's the Story?
Located in the heart of Acadian Louisiana, Lake Martin (formerly known as Lake la Pointe) is a naturally occurring open body of water within a cypress-tupelo swamp. Historically, each fall and winter this low area would fill with rainwater and backwater from the Vermilion River and Bayou Teche. It would drain gradually through the spring and become essentially dry in summer. In the early 1950s, private landowners and a local agency agreed to construct a five-mile levee around the lake and forested areas to hold water throughout the year. The impounded area within the levee was designated as a fish and game preserve open for public recreation. Today Lake Martin is approximately 765 acres, with about 200 acres of open water and the rest a permanently-flooded cypress-tupelo swamp. Property around Lake Martin is still entirely private. Public use of surrounding woodlands, other than walking on identified trails, is by permission only.
Throughout the years Lake Martin has become a popular local fishing and outdoor-recreation hot-spot. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries takes an active role in managing fish and wildlife in the lake. In 1977, a dip was installed, the pump station refurbished and a central drainage canal dredged to improved drawdown capability to combat aquatic vegetation. After waterbirds developed a colony here in the late 1980’s, water quality began to suffer due to near constant inundation and little opportunity to flush the system. In 2001, partners built a water control structure at the south end of the lake to allow water management through annual draw-downs in late fall, after nesting birds have left the rookery. The pump on the north end allows for refilling from the adjacent Ruth Canal to the desired level if winter rainfall is not sufficient.
Lake Martin is part of the greater Lake Martin Important Bird Area and is situated within The Nature Conservancy’s Cypress Island Preserve, the largest remaining tract of hardwood forest in the Teche-Vermilion watershed. This preserve protects almost 10,000 acres of wild bottomland hardwood forest habitat and cypress-tupelo swamp. Lake Martin’s nationally significant waterbird rookery serves as a popular spring nesting spot for a variety of herons, egrets, neotropic cormorants, roseate spoonbills, white ibis and anhingas, and some species stay at the lake year-round.
A small visitor center and boardwalk run by The Nature Conservancy are located at the south end of Lake Martin, and a 2.5-mile levee walking trail is open from fall to spring.
This site’s geology/geomorphology: Holocene meander-belt (point bar) deposits of Bayou Portage occupation of Mississippi River
Site GPS Coordinates: 30.202460, -91.900198
Closest Address: 1264 Prairie Hwy., St. Martinville, LA 70582
Driving Directions: From Lafayette, head east on LA-94 E/Carmel Drive to LA-353 E/Lake Martin Road and turn right. Drive ~5.2 miles, turn left at the Cypress Island Visitor Center and proceed to the site.
Trail Site Information
No Entrance Fees
Exhibits for Public Viewing