Fort Jesup State Historic Site
Fort Jesup is a reminder of a young nation's growing pains and a relic of Louisiana's rich international heritage. When the Louisiana Purchase Treaty of 1803 failed to clearly define the western boundary of Louisiana, which was also the western border of the country at that time, the United States claimed eastern Texas and Spain claimed western Louisiana. The ensuing dispute gave rise to the "Neutral Ground," an area where the laws of neither nation were enforced. Soldiers and settlers were kept out and rogues of various stripes ruled the region.
After the territorial boundary was finally fixed at the Sabine River by the Florida Purchase Treaty of 1819, the United States built Fort Jesup in 1822. Lieutenant Colonel Zachary Taylor established and commanded the garrison, which was originally called Cantonment Jesup in honor of Taylor's good friend Brigadier General Thomas Sidney Jesup. Taylor's troops managed to establish law and order in the Neutral Ground and Fort Jesup remained an important military post for nearly 25 years.
Soldiers at Fort Jesup performed many duties which opened the frontier to American settlers: building roads, surveying the frontier, clearing the Red River and negotiating treaties. The garrison at Fort Jesup was also called on to control slave insurrections in Alexandria and to catch criminals trying to cross the border. The soldiers of Fort Jesup saw thousands of settlers move into the province of Texas and then watched Texas become independent of Mexican authority. In 1845, half of the U.S. Army traveled through the Fort Jesup area en route to war with Mexico.
The fort was abandoned in 1846 when it was no longer needed as a border outpost. One kitchen is the only historic structure remaining from the large reservation that once spread across the frontier. The reconstructed officers' quarters houses visitor information, a gift shop, interpretive exhibits and restrooms. This building was reconstructed with the assistance of historians from the Army Quartermasters General's Office and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In 1961, Fort Jesup was designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior and, as such, joined a select group of properties which have been recognized for their importance in American history.
North Toledo Bend State Park (9 miles southwest of Zwolle off LA 3229) - Located on Toledo Bend Reservoir, the park offers fishing, a boat launch, improved campsites, 10 vacation cabins, group camp facilities, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, picnicking, pavilion, playgrounds, trails and a conference center.
Hodges Gardens State Park (6 miles south of Florien on Hwy. 171) - Cabins and campsites offer overnight accommodations and day-use visitors will enjoy the nature trails and extensive picnic area. Water from the 225-acre lake is pumped through an extensive system of pools and waterfalls, adding to the beauty of the formal gardens.
Mansfield State Historic Site (4 miles south of Mansfield on LA 175) - The site of the last major Confederate victory of the Civil War. Visitors may take daily tours, see interpretive programs, spend time in the museum with its comprehensive collection of Civil War artifacts, and walk the trail through the battlefield area.
Rebel State Historic Site (3 miles northwest of Marthaville on State Hwy. 1221, and 25 miles west of Natchitoches and I-49) - Features the gravesite of an unknown Confederate soldier and is home of the Louisiana Country Music Museum. An amphitheater offers concerts featuring gospel, country and folk music.
Los Adaes State Historic Site (1 mile northeast of Robeline on LA Hwy. 485) - The 14-acre site located on the "El Camino Real" near Natchitoches features the remains of a Spanish fort built in the 1700s to protect Texas from the French. It is a major archaeological site and offers interpretive programs.
Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site (155 rue Jefferson, Natchitoches) - Located on the banks of historic Cane River, the fort is a full-scale replica of a French colonial fort built in the 1730s. Featured are log walls sharpened to protect the barracks, a warehouse, chapel, mess hall, powder magazine, Indian dwellings and interpretive programs.
South Toledo Bend State Park (16 miles west of Anacoco, off LA Hwy. 191) - Set on the scenic bluffs of the southern end of the Toledo Bend Reservoir, the park offers cabins, campsites, a visitor center with meeting room facilities and a paved nature trail. A boat launch provides a route to some of the best fishing in the nation.
Historic Town of Natchitoches (off I-49 on Cane River Lake) - The oldest settlement in the Louisiana Purchase, it has a 33-block Historic Landmark District featuring Creole architecture, bed and breakfasts, restaurants, shops and historic homes.
Cane River Country (South of Natchitoches along LA 1) - Features some of the South's oldest plantation homes situated along the 32-mile oxbow-shaped Cane River Lake. The countryside is dotted with pecan orchards, cotton farms, historic landmarks, plantations and churches.
Sabine Wildlife Refuge (5 miles south of Zwolle) - This 14,780-acre area of loblolly and short leaf pine is open to visitors to enjoy hunting, birding and camping.
National Fish Hatchery and Aquarium (615 Hwy. 1 South, Natchitoches) - Tours feature aquarium exhibits of native Louisiana fish species and include turtles and alligators as well as a video presentation. Visitors may also observe seasonal operations such as feeding fish, hatching eggs and harvesting fish.