Notes on Louisiana 

 

Ft. Jesup:        Located on state highway 6 about twenty miles SW of Natchitoches. At the time of founding it was the western-most outpost of the U.S. Army. The Fort is a bit off the beaten path so not too many people go there, or at least they didn't when I was there. Nice display of period clothing and implements in the restored officer's quarters. Also on the grounds are the fort kitchen and several piles of rocks that were building foundations. There are placards at various building sites describing period technology such as commercial sawing (the phrase "that's the pits" comes from this operation) and surgery such as it was. The placard on amputations is not for the squeamish. There are picnic areas.

 

Ft. Jean Baptiste:      Restored French fort located in the city limits of Natchitoches. The entire fort has been restored. Built when the French and Spanish still disputed ownership of Louisiana. Interesting to note that for a while there was a hundred-mile wide swath through Louisiana claimed by the French and the Spanish and forts of both nations were built here right out in the woods. There is an entrance fee for this fort.

 

Natchitoches: On I-49 at Exit 138 I think. Beautiful downtown area and some really nice examples of antebellum houses in the neighborhoods. Nice walk along the river downtown and I believe that there is a park down by the river, too. Parking might be a bit of a challenge.

 

New Orleans: Most of New Orleans is rather seedy and squalid. The two best places to go if you are over 30 are probably the site of the Battle of New Orleans at the northern Jean Lafitte National Park in Chalmette (there is another Jean Lafitte Park south of the city) and the North Shore of the city along Lake Pontchartrain. There is a nice park on the North Shore that extends for some ways along the lake. If you are feeling really brave you can go downtown and see some of New Orleans' famous above-ground graveyards. You can see some of them along I-10 north from downtown but they are located in some of the worst neighborhoods in the city.

 

Vicksburg:      Not in Louisiana but directly across the Mississippi River on I-20. Site of the famous battle during the War of Northern Aggression. Very highly recommended. Extensive tour of the battlefield areas and a museum devoted to the river forces that includes a salvaged warship. You can easily spend a long day here. Some of the curves in the park may be a bit tight for a motorhome. Note that most of the trees in the park were not there at the time of the battle but were planted by the CCC in the 1930's for erosion control. There is an entrance fee. Recommend that you go to the Visitor Center immediately next to the bridge on the Mississippi side first.

 

Natchez Trace:           Again not in Louisiana but if you are going to or coming from Vicksburg it is a worthy diversion. The Parkway runs roughly between the Mississippi River and U.S. highway 61 between Natchez and Port Gibson. Port Gibson is notable as the town "too pretty to burn" by Northern forces.  Outstanding examples of restored antebellum houses. Also along this stretch of road is the second-highest Indian mound in the U.S. The highest is in Ohio.

 

And if you like to gamble, check out Lake Charles on I-10 about 35 miles east of Texas. If you are in the neighborhood, cross the Texas border on I-10 and see one of my favorite road signs. It is one of those big green Interstate mileage signs that says "El Paso 880 miles"