If you're ready to get a little closer to nature, the folks at NORDC can help you — and it's all free.

Public canoeing and fishing sessions are held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday through November, with volunteers and staff helping even novices start paddling or wetting a line.

All the gear is provided. You just have to show up, but Justin Ammon, NORDC's outdoor operation manager, asks that groups of 10 or more give him a heads-up first by calling (504) 658-3082.

"Volunteers will help haul canoes, put people on the water, make sure life jackets are properly secured, and are out on the water monitoring and giving tips on how to canoe," Ammon said.

They also rig baits and teach how to cast a fishing line, he added.  

The water is stocked with catfish year-round, and with rainbow trout in the winter. "Fisheries and Wildlife stocks it three or four times a year, and in exchange they do research projects there," he said.

 A fishing rodeo is held in October.

 "You can fish anywhere around the lagoons," Ammon said, "but most people fish off of the dock." 

The dock is also Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant, providing easy access for all. 

"We give paddling lessons on everything you need to know," said Marie Piccione, outdoor activity coordinator. "It's a great place to practice for the first time." 

Groups of eight or more can also book appointments for classes. Nature walks, which take place in the woods at the neighboring Audubon Louisiana Nature Center, and survival skills classes are by appointment only. 

Also, open archery lessons are offered from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays; the sessions will expand to Wednesdays as well in May, with hours still to be determined.  

For more information, to book classes or to sign up to volunteer at the Saturday sessions, call (504) 658-3082.