Lake St. Joseph

Lake St. Joseph is an ancient oxbow lake created by the Mississippi River. Newellton, Louisiana is located at the northern end of the accessible portion of the lake. The original lake bed continues several more miles north and is easily visible along Hwy 605.

The lake pre-dates most known maps and is of an indeterminate age. The Balmoral Mounds located within a mile of the present day lake date to approximately AD 1000.

The Taensas (Tensas) Indians made their home on the lake. In 1682 LaSalle (Tonti) made a well documented stay at their village. It was during this stay that the first documented mass occurred in Louisiana. LaSalle returned to the village again on his journey upriver. Further expeditions also passed by the lake with more documentation on the lives of the native people.

Due to the rich alluvial soils around the lake it has always been an important agriculture area from the ancient days to the present. By the 1850s there were several prosperous plantations along the lake. In 1863 Grant marched his troops along the lake fighting several skirmishes along the way. He ultimately headquartered at Winter Quarters which is now a state commemorative area. This location was used for troop staging and his launching point to cross the Mississippi and stage the southern portion of the Vicksburg siege. During the spring of 1863 rowdies from the Union Army burned homes along the lake. Therefore there are no surviving structures other than Winter Quarters.

Hard Times Landing was at the south end of the lake and was a functioning landing even after levees were built. When the river cut-off Yucatan Lake it ceased to exist. The last bales of cotton shipped from this landing was in the early 1930's. References to Hard Times Landing can be found in Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi.

Present day the lake is a shallow body of water navigable by most recreational fishing boats, canoe, or kayak. It is known for very good seasonal fishing. The lake presents outstanding opportunities for paddling, photography, birding, and general enjoyment and observation of flora, fauna, and wildlife.

Easily visible along Highway 605 on the west bank the views improve dramatically when seen from the water. Paddlers and boaters can immerse themselves in the cypress stands and venture up Clark's Bayou. There is the opportunity to get the feel of both open water and sky and seclusion all in one body of water.

One will experience all the flora and fauna typical to a cypress lake in this region. There are a tremendous amount of bird species, both year-round and seasonal, nesting bald eagles, a large alligator population and some large alligators. The accompanying photos give illustration to the natural environment.

This is not a busy location. One will encounter some fishermen but will mainly be on their own and experience peace and solitude. Compared to other lakes this lake is not as susceptible to high winds. Close proximity to the bank makes it safe for exit if necessary. One of the outstanding features for a paddler is the ability to put-in and take out from the same location thereby enabling a custom trip of any time and distance. Fall foliage is exceptional when cypress turn red and can be enjoyed on the water, from the bank, or driving along the lake on Hwy 605.


Latitude: 32.073781 Longitude: -91.233535 Elevation: 67 ft
the best travel advice comes from the people who live here
William Hawkins

Seasons Accessible

Lake St. Joseph is accessible year-round.


There is a $3 launch fee at the concrete launch at the juncture of La Hwy 605 and La Hwy 887.

Accessibility Notes

There are no formal handicap ramps, etc. at any of the boat launches. A person would need assistance from another person to get in a watercraft. All of the launch sites are basically flat.

Pet Friendly Notes

There are no ordinances against pets other than keeping them leashed. Lake St. Joseph has a large alligator population. Dog owners should be extremely cautious on the lake bank or with a dog in a small watercraft (kayak or canoe).

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