If you recently transferred to Fort Polk army base in Louisiana and are looking for family-friendly things to do that are also educational, you've come to the right place. Named for Confederate Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk who fought in the Civil War, Fort Polk is located in Vernon Parish in Central Louisiana and opened August 1941. It originally launched as a place for training U.S. soldiers during America's early involvement in World War II. It was also an army base for basic combat training purposes in the 1960s and '70s during the Vietnam War.
Today, training for the Army continues to be a prime function of Fort Polk army installation through the Joint Readiness Training Center. But it also serves as a place military families live, as more than 13,000 military family members call JRTC and Fort Polk home sweet home.
Over an impressive 198,000 acres of land, the "Home of Heroes" has lots of things to do for both summer thrills and winter wonders. Here is just a handful of the places you can go in and around the Fort Polk army base all year long.
Fort Polk Museum
Located on Mississippi Avenue a short distance away from Highway 171, the Fort Polk Museum is the perfect place for parents and children to discover more about this army base's storied past, filled with hundreds of artifacts, photographs and outdoor vehicles that detail what military members did to prepare for armed conflict in various theaters. Learn about Louisiana Maneuvers, which were a series of exercises soldiers participated in at Camp Polk prior to deploying overseas to join the Allied Forces during the Second World War. You'll also find interesting insights from the Vietnam War, as more than 1 million infantry recruits came to Fort Polk before transitioning to the battlefield in Southeast Asia.
Aside from the convenience of being physically located on site – between the Bayou Theater and Family Readiness Center – entrance to the museum is 100% free of charge to all service members and their families as well as to civilians, so friends are more than welcome to go if they're visiting. It's open Tuesday through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. CDT, closed all day Sunday and Monday and on all federal holidays.
Kisatchie National Forest
In addition to being a history enthusiast's dream destination, Fort Polk is a nature lover's nirvana. In fact, much of the base is owned and maintained by the U.S. Forest Service. But if you're looking to explore a place that's even larger and every bit as breathtaking, look no further than Kisatchie National Forest. Due east of Fort Polk and encompassing seven parishes, the Kisatchie National Forest is festooned with verdant green space and wildlife over a sprawling 604,000 acres of land – or 944 square miles! From off-highway vehicle trails to off-the-beaten path hiking trails, the panoramic views of Kisatchie National Forest are quite the sight to behold. There are plenty of fishing opportunities here as well; parents and children of all ages can use Anderson Pond to cast lines and bait hooks to see if anything is biting. Horseback riding is another common pursuit for those who come to Kisatchie. Whether it's exploring Wolf Rock Cave or picnicking at designated areas in the Fullerton Lake Recreation Complex, there's something fun for everyone. Visit the website for operating hours and upcoming events.
Managed by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife Fisheries, Peason Ridge is located in Anacoco – about 28 minutes northwest of Fort Polk by car – and is boasts a visually stunning landscape that is postcard worthy. Over a vast land area that spans over 74,300 acres, the rolling hills are accented with a diverse assortment of tree varieties that include longleaf pine, black jack and post oak. These serve as ideal hiding places for hunters, as wildlife is nearly as diverse as the plantlife in this neck of the woods. Fowl and game hunters will find Peason Ridge an ideal landing spot to pursue their backwood passion.
Of course, you'll need a valid permit for hunting or trapping. Visit the website for more information.
If you're looking for something with more of an urban feel, you'll find it in Leesville. Known as the "Best Home Town in the Army," Leesville is part of Vernon Parish and is a thriving metropolis, despite its fairly small population of approximately 6,600, based on the most recent U.S. Census data. Even though it spans just 5.4 square miles, you wouldn't know it based on all the things there are to do and see around Leesville's historic downtown district.
For example, you'll want to clear your calendar – as well as your appetite – on Thursdays and Saturdays for the fruit and vegetable offerings at the 3rd Street Market. Located on West Lee Street between Harriet and South, the Main Street Market on 3rd has a cornucopia of farm fresh corn, tomatoes, cucumbers and squashes, with a plethora of home-made jams, jellies, salsas and spreads to enjoy.
Alternatively, you can also roam the cobbled-stone streets that give the Leesville Main Street Cultural District its authentic look and feel. This is also where the Wingate House and Ferguson House reside. Festivals take place here year-round as well, with the Rodeo Parade right around the corner (held annually during the first week of October).
Alligator Lake Recreation Area
With a name like "Alligator Lake," this Fort Polk landing spot may not seem all that family-friendly at first blush. Don't let the title fool you, as the only thing biting in this neck of the woods are the fish. In addition to being ideal for anglers young and old, Alligator Lake Recreation Area has boating opportunities (you can bring your own or rent one of theirs), scuba diving, inflatable water slides and party tents if you're hosting an end-of-summer bash or early fall fling. You can even rent the entire park if you'd like it all to yourself.
Find out more about booking and renting at their website. Hours of operation are available there as well. It's open daily from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., March 1 through September 30, and closed on all federal holidays as well as on Sundays during the winter months.
Family housing, schooling and child care are, of course, core components to life on an army base when you have a family to support. But fun and entertainment are equally important when trying to get away from the daily grind. You'll find it all at Fort Polk.
Looking for ways to fund your next family outing? Contact us today to learn how Omni Military Loans can help.
This blog is for informational purposes only. Visit the individual websites for complete details including hours of operation, pricing and military discount information. Information can change at any time. Omni Financial does not endorse, recommend or imply affiliation with the listed companies, events or organizations.