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Spotlight on:
Cajun Coast/St Mary Parish

Visit one of the last great wildernesses in the U.S.

The Cajun Coast is laced by a network of bayous and waterways that provide easy access to the swamp for nature lovers, wildlife photographers and birders. To help the visitor explore this treasured ecological wonder, Cajun Jack's Swamp Tours in Patterson offers guided swamp tours into the basin. If you'd prefer to explore the waterways on your own, pick up a paddle trail guide or visit the website for recommended trails.

In St. Mary Parish, there are two areas of preserved natural swampland open to the public. The Brownell Memorial Park & Carillon Tower is a 9.5-acre park in a natural setting next to Lake Palourde. Founded as a nondenominational devotional park, admission is free. A 106-foot tall carillon tower containing 61 bronze bells graces the park and plays two selections every 30 minutes. The new Palmetto Trail in the Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge is about a two-mile trail where one can encounter songbirds, owls, deer, squirrels, snakes, frogs and, occasionally, a Louisiana black bear. Also, at the refuge one can walk down the beautiful boardwalk.

The Cajun Coast is located in the Mississippi Flyway for migratory birds, seasonally increasing the number of species the dedicated birdwatcher can enjoy. The Atchafalaya hardwood swamp, nearby coastal marsh, and ample farmland provide ecological niches that are home to more than 200 species, from the spectacular roseate spoonbill to the comical anhinga to the humble brown thrasher. The rich variety of avian life will thrill veteran bird watchers and intrigue beginners. Pick up an America's wetlands birding guide to help you navigate the birding trail or come in February for the annual Eagle Expo, the celebration of the American bald eagle. Presentations, photography seminars and guided tours highlight the event.

Residents of the Cajun Coast treasure their rich history and heritage and are enthusiastic caretakers of the architecture, artifacts, and anecdotes of the past. But they are interested in more than simple preservation. On the Cajun Coast, the past is a vibrant part of the present.

History in Franklin
Fans of historic architecture must visit the town of Franklin. Franklin's National Register Historic District encompasses more than 420 noteworthy structures, including antebellum homes, charming Victorians, and a turn-of-the-century shopping district. Lined by the original lampposts, East Main Street is shaded by an oak arcade under which stately Greek Revival homes stand.

Two antebellum homes in Franklin are open to the public. The Grevemberg House Museum is an excellent period restoration of an 1851 townhouse. Four "Temple of the Winds" Corinthian columns adorn the facade. The interior is furnished with fine antiques, documented wallpapers, and early artifacts from the area. Oaklawn Manor, the private home of Louisiana's former governor, is also open to the public. Built in 1837, Oaklawn is a monumental plantation home furnished with European antiques, lovely bird carvings, and an extensive Audubon collection.

Morgan City's riverfront Historic District is a recent addition to the national Main Street Program. The program is designed to encourage the revitalization and restoration of historic downtown retail shopping areas. In addition to unique shops, excellent restaurants and several tourist attractions, Morgan City's historic cistrict is also home to several splendid churches ranging from the 1870s to the early 1900s.

Flying Machines in Patterson
Airplanes, sawmills, and oil are not topics that typically spring to mind at the mention of the word "museum." On the Cajun Coast, though, the unique museums offer the chance to explore special interests.

Relive childhood dreams of being a flying ace with a visit to the Louisiana State Museum in Patterson. The museum boasts two collections: the Wedell Williams Aviation Collection and the Cypress Collection. The collection houses original planes and flying replicas from the golden age of aviation as well as a display on aerospace achievements in Louisiana. In the 1920s and 1930s, the world center of developments in speed aviation was the small town of Patterson. Aviation pioneers Harry Williams and Jimmy Wedell set numerous records in the air races of the early 1930s with their innovative designs. Their "44" racer was the first landplane to exceed 300 mph. The Cypress Collection highlights Patterson's role in the lumber industry, the funding source that allowed Harry Williams to tinker with aviation.

Atchafalaya Native Americans
The first Native American inhabitants of the Atchafalaya Basin depended upon the seafood provided by the river, basin, bayous and gulf. Later settlers were also dependent upon the the waterways.

Commercial fishing for profit was not prominent in the area until the development of a device called a tow car enabled the transport of seafood from the remote bayou reaches to Morgan City.

For More Information:
Cajun Coast Visitors & Convention Bureau

Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism