Houma, Louisiana: Nature, Plantations and History
By Vange Tapia
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the name of the fascinating state of Louisiana? Perhaps you think of its delicious food and the iconic music? Here in Houma, located a little over an hour southwest of New Orleans, you also think of the swamps. Houma is the capital of swamps and marshes and is known as Louisiana’s Bayou Country.
I started the day with a boat ride with Annie Miller's "Swamp and Marsh Tour." It was an excursion through the wetlands whose landscape is decorated with a variety of vegetation of Spanish moss and cypress and a rich fauna of alligators, otters, herons and more, all while navigating through channels, marshes and swamps.
A little later, the Bayou Terrebonne Waterlife Museum, which looks at the area’s dependence on the seafood and the water transportation industries, and the natural wonders of the wetlands of south-eastern Louisiana, reinforced everything I learned on the swamp tour. I now know the difference between a swamp, a marsh and a bayou; the latter is the arms of a river but with a very slow current.
I was able to touch a couple of alligators safely and supervised and understand their breeding at Greenwood Gator Farm. Some of these fanged friends are raised and later released, and others remain on the farm for reproduction.
Houma’s Memorable Homes and Plantations
Another landmark is Ardoyne Plantation, possibly the largest and most elaborate remaining example of the rural Victorian Gothic architecture. This location for several films also holds great treasures of its original owners as a sixth-generation family member still lives in this historic home. When it was time to go, I was walked to the door with a delicious homemade praline, a Louisiana candy that was inherited from the French, very similar to what is known in Mexico as “Dulce de Leche.”
I also visited the Southdown Plantation House and Terrebonne Museum. Comprised of a 19th century sugar plantation manor home, slave quarters and a gift shop, Southdown offers excellent guided tours every hour. I was fascinated by the history of the home and its inhabitants as shown through well-preserved articles throughout the house. Also interesting to learn was that the Southdown sugar mill was the last-operating mill in Terrebonne Parish, having closed in 1979 and signaling the end of the booming sugar industry in the area. Southdown Plantation is also the site of a twice-yearly arts and crafts fair, which is very popular here.
The Regional Military History Museum
There was one more stop in my visit to Houma that really brought this area to life for me. The Regional Military History Museum is as much about military history as it is about education; the volunteers are war veterans eager to share their experiences and knowledge, and the exhibits paint a picture of the past through carefully prepared artifacts and replications. It was an unexpectedly fascinating visit right here in Houma.
Southern Louisiana is rich with fun and entertainment; restaurants and shopping are not hard to find in Houma at all – just check out the Martin Luther King Boulevard Shopping District.
Experience what residents call "joie de vivre," or "joy of life," when visiting Houma for yourself.