Avoyelles Parish/Marksville Area
Native American heritage mixes with Cajun culture
Located in east-central Louisiana, Avoyelles Parish is an eclectic mix of Native American heritage, Cajun culture and delicious Louisiana food.
Native American Heritage
The Marksville State Historic Site features a Native American ceremonial center built on the site of an Indian culture and earthen mounds dating from 1400 A.D. The museum exhibits artifacts and exhibits interpreting that culture.
The Tunica-Biloxi Museum opened in 1989 to house the "Tunica Treasure," which contains Indian tribal grave goods that were stolen from the original burial ground by a grave robber in the late 1960s. In 2011, the entire site had a massive upgrade to become a 40,000-square-foot museum housing 200,000 artifacts that are considered to be the best physical evidence of the interrelationship between the Tunica and French during the Colonial period. Special artifacts in the exhibit are the original bowls, jars and plates that the Tunica Indians used, along with trading goods that the French gave to the Tunica in exchange for horses and salt: glass beads, bowls, plates, cooking utensils, tools and guns.
Throughout the year, the Native American traditions and culture of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe that began more than 20,000 years ago come to life with pow wow events. Tribal members, dressed in full regalia, dance and sing to the beat of drums, while crafts and Native American foods are featured. The first inhabitants of the Marksville area are honored with the annual Fete du Ble Indian Festival held the Fourth of July weekend.
The modern presence of Native Americans is on spectacular display at the Paragon Casino and Resort, owned by the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe.
At its Tamahka Trails Golf Club, part of Louisiana's Audubon Golf Trail, natural beauty cloaks an endless series of subtle, surprising challenges. Master golf course architect Steve Smyers coupled his "new school" design with a passionate appreciation of Scotland's legendary courses to create 18 holes of pure perfection. Its numerous and often massive bunkers evoke a lunar landscape — and always require strategy. Tamahka Trails offers global positioning systems in all carts. The practice facility includes 50,000 square feet of hitting area, a 10,000-square-foot putting green, and practice greens dedicated to bunker play, chipping and pitching. With its panoramic views of the course, the clubhouse is a great place to refresh before heading off to the Paragon Casino for action of another kind.
Marksville was founded by accident. Here, in the 1790s, a Venetian peddler named Marco broke a wagon wheel along his travels and decided to stay and set up a trading post. The resulting town offers visitors a patchwork of colonial history.
The 1820 Hypolite-Bordelon House, an early Creole pioneer dwelling, is a window into the life of early European settlers. During the Civil War era, Avoyelles had military action at Fort de Russey (Marksville), the Battle of Mansura and the Battle of Yellow Bayou (Simmesport).
Natural areas such as Spring Bayou Wildlife Management Area and the Lake Ophelia and Grand Cote National wildlife preserves give hunters, fishermen, nature lovers and birders plenty to do.
Grand Cote National Wildlife Refuge and Lake Ophelia NWR are served by the Mississippi and Central Flyways. Although mallards, northern pintails and wood ducks are the most numerous waterfowl species on the refuges, blue- and green-winged teal, northern shovelers, gadwall, and American widgeon are also common. Primary diving ducks are scaup and ring-necked ducks. Canada, snow, and greater white-fronted geese are present, though less common.
Several hundred native species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, fishes and insects are found on the refuges. Common species, though often difficult to see, include bobcats, alligators, red and grey foxes, turkeys, mink and otter. More frequently encountered are white-tailed deer, raccoons, fox squirrels, beaver, marsh hawks and wading birds. Many neotropical migratory songbirds use the refuge at various times. Refuge fisheries are composed largely of largemouth bass, gar, crappie, bowfin, bream species, buffalo, carp and catfish.
Endangered species numbers are few and their presence is always marked with special interest. The arctic peregrine falcon and Louisiana black bear are occasional visitors, and thanks to the refuge's three-year bald eagle reintroduction project, bald eagle sightings are common.
Make sure you check out the Epps House, built by Edwin Epps. Epps was the owner of Solomon Northrup, a slave who recorded his experience of servitude in the book Twelve Years A Slave. The story recounts Northrup's kidnapping in New York and harrowing years as a slave in the south. Northrup's story has been turned into a movie released in the fall of 2013.
For More Information:
Avoyelles Commission of Tourism
Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism