Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve - Louisiana
Six sites in Southern Louisiana comprise the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. These are the Barataria Preserve, Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center, French Quarter Visitor Center, Acadian Cultural Center, Chalmette Battlefield and Chalmette National Cemetery, and the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center. We were able to visit two of these during our time boondocking on the outskirts of New Orleans - the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center and the Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery.
Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center - Thibodaux
Using the National Park Service app (link below), we learned that the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center, in Thibodaux, not only had a cultural exhibit, but all offered a boat tour of Bayou Lafourche. The boat tour is by ticket and reservation which we made by calling the center in advance.
We were early for the boat tour and took this time to see the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center exhibit which told of the Acadians' journey to the banks of Bayou Lafourche and their cultural influence as they made this area their home. Acadia was a region of North America settled by French colonists. Acadians came to Louisiana to seek refuge from British dominance and became known as Cajuns. The term "Cajun" is derived from the French pronunciation of Acadian.
After the exhibit, we bought our park patch, got the park stamp in our book, and picked up our boat tour tickets at the gift shop. We proceeded to the rear of the welcome center where we were provided life vests. Exiting the rear doors of the building, we walked down to the pier where we were greeted by Park Ranger Natasha. Our boat captain, Dwayne, made the boat ready and we soon pulled away from the dock and made our way down the bayou.
The boat ride was great and during the ride, Park Ranger Natasha told us about the history of the area and about all the wildlife that lived along the bayou. It was early March, so it was still a little chilly, but we had prepared and made sure to bundle up for the boat ride. A stop at the E.D. White Historic Site, a sugar plantation, was included as part of the boat tour. When we arrived at the plantation, we were greeted by Lonnie, a volunteer, who provided guided tours of the plantation home. The home was smaller than we had expected, but the architecture was amazing. The grounds were filled with oak trees that were hundreds of years old. Inside the home, many pictures and items belonged to former residents. Something we didn’t know was that back in the 1800s, the kitchens were in a separate building which reduced the chance of the main house catching fire. The kitchen building at this site was a replica since the original had burned down years earlier but it was great to see how many fireplaces they had for cooking. The tour and boat ride was wonderful experience that I would recommend to anyone that enjoys history.
Chalmette Battlefield and Chalmette National Cemetery - Chalmette
The Chalmette Battlefield was a sight to behold. It is located in the lower 9th ward southeast of New Orleans. There is a small office/ museum on-site with relics from the war of 1812. While touring the museum, we were treated to the history and a demonstration of a flintlock pistol by a museum volunteer. In the gift shop, we purchased our patch and stamped our book with the park stamp. Outside there is a self-guided tour of the grounds consisting of the battlefield, a plantation home, a monument similar to the Washington Monument, but much smaller due to the high water table in the area, and a cemetery for the fallen soldiers. We took our time walking around the grounds taking in the history of this place while enjoying the beauty of it too. The site is located right along the Mississippi River and has a landing where a paddle boat brings tourists in to visit the site.
Since we were in the lower 9th Ward, we took the opportunity to visit our favorite sandwich shop, Guillory’s, for another muffuletta sandwich.
What an amazing place south Louisiana is - the people, the food, and the history make it one of my favorite places that I’ve ever visited.