The state of Louisiana is a bit of an enigma in the great, multi-dimensional patchwork quilt that is the United States of America. The land known today as Louisiana was formed over millennia by sediment washed down from other parts of the continental U.S. by the Mississippi River.
The state isn’t large, but its diverse topography includes vast and numerous deltas, marsh, and swampland along the great river, beautiful coastal beaches to the South on the Gulf of Mexico, and fertile, rich farmland.
This diversity is representative of other parts of America as well, but each of these deep south features Louisiana contains within its borders feels separate and singular. What is the heart of the great state originally named for King Louis XIV of France and later purchased by the United States from Napoleon Bonaparte in 1803? Is it the voodoo magic and revelry of Bourbon Street, or the rolling black soil farmlands of the Mississippi delta?
The answer is a little bit of all of them – and so much more. Luckily, some of Louisiana’s greatest treasures are preserved today within the U.S. National Parks system. Below are some of the can’t miss spots when visiting the Pelican State.
Cane River Creole National Historical Park: This Historical Park near Natchitoches, LA preserves and protects the lives and legacies of some of Louisiana’s most important and influential inhabitants dating back hundreds of years: the Creole people. The park tells the stories and relives the lives and hardships of the Creole people who inhabited the Cane River area going back over 200 years ago, some as slaves, others as tenant farmers, and later as free peoples of the United States.
Visitors can visit the Magnolia and Oakland plantations, two of the largest cotton plantations of their day. Here visitors can learn about the day-to-day struggles and triumphs of the Creole people, and how their culture shaped the culture of Louisiana and continues to do so to this day.
Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve: New Orleans is more than just jazz bars filled with good music and lavish, celebratory parties in the streets of the town. Visitors to this legendary American city also have the opportunity to walk in the steps of the soldiers and civilians who fought in the battle of New Orleans in 1815 or learn the local Cajun traditions from the people who live them to this day. Or perhaps the more adventurous are interested in tales of gold and silver! This area of the state is replete with places to visit that commemorate the pirate (and later war hero) Jean Lafitte and his “Baratarians” (as they were called) and their legend. This national historical park and preserve contain stories of both myth and fact and it’s up to the visitor to decide which is which!
New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park: As the locals say, “only in New Orleans could there be a National Park for jazz”! The true American art form, jazz, finds its roots and spiritual home right here at the mouth of the Mississippi River, on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, in the “Big Easy”, New Orleans, and this National Park preserves its history and legacy. Located in the French Quarter, this is a must-visit for those interested in the roots of American music and the legacy that the world still enjoys today. Visitors can learn about the people and places that shaped this musical and cultural heritage and why it matters to this day.