Natchitoches, Louisiana: Historic Sites and Southern Charm
By Vange Tapia
Plantations, architecture, cuisine and culture make the story of this beautiful city by the river unique. This is Natchitoches, the oldest established settlement from the Louisiana Purchase in 1714.
Historic Natchitoches offers many attractions any time of year, such as museums, Creole plantations and festivals. And did I mention this city was the location for the film “Steel Magnolias?”
El Camino Real de Los Tejas: Six Cities, One Trail
Designated as a National Historic Trail in 2004, El Camino Real de los Tejas was originally established to connect a series of missions and bases between Monclova, Mexico and Los Adaes, the first capital of the province of Texas (in what is now North-western Louisiana). It was the only primary overland route from the Rio Grande to the Red River Valley in Louisiana during the Spanish colonial period in 1690-1821. During that time period, Natchitoches was one of just six cities in the U.S. that were part of the trail.
The Cane River National Heritage Area has some of the oldest plantations in the south, located along Cane River Lake. Some of them share stories and secrets about their former owners and some of them are even famous for their ghost tales.
Situated in the Cane River Creole National Historical Park, the Oakland Plantation includes the interpretation of the history of Creoles of colour and free black people living and working in planting nearly 100 years after the American Civil War and emancipation.
Melrose Plantation is a National Historic Landmark, considered one of the largest plantations in the United States built by and for the free people of colour.
Magnolia has 20 rooms, including a Catholic chapel where Mass is still celebrated. The main house, which still belongs to the descendants of the LeCompte family, is privately owned and not open to the public.
Historic District of Natchitoches
Just walk down Front Street in downtown Natchitoches along the river to feel the charm of the first permanent French colony in Louisiana. This historic district also offers many attractions such as museums, boutiques and restaurants.
Just minutes away from downtown, you will find Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site, an interesting place that represents the history of Natchitoches with "interpretative rangers" as they did back in colonial times and a small introductory film, as well as artefacts of the period.
To continue the experience, Natchitoches Alligator Park shows the mysterious and exciting world of the American alligator. Hundreds of alligators will entertain you with hourly feeding shows, but you don't have to just watch. You can feed them, touch them, and even have your picture with them.
Come explore the Cane River National Heritage Area in Natchitoches! A historical region and home to a unique mix of cultures, including French, Spanish, African, Native American and Creole.