Los Adaes State Historic Site
Los Adaes, the symbol of New Spain in Louisiana, was once the capital of Texas and the scene of a unique cooperation among the French, the Spanish and the indigenous Native Americans. An area rich in archaeological finds, it thrives today as one of Louisiana's most intriguing state Historic Sites. Click HERE for additional information about excavations at and resulting discoveries about the history of Los Adaes, courtesy of the Louisiana Division of Archaeology.
Los Adaes dates back to the early 1700s when a Franciscan missionary, Father Francisco Hidalgo, urged the French governor of Louisiana to establish a post near east Texas. The missionary's objectives weren't purely religious; he knew that such an action by the French would alert New Spain and cause the Spanish government to re-establish previously closed Spanish military posts and Franciscan missions. The founding of Natchitoches in 1714 by the Frenchman St. Denis and the subsequent construction there of Fort St. Jean Baptiste had the predicted effect. In 1716, the Spanish established six missions and one fort in east Texas.
In 1719, an attack on Mission San Miguel - 15 miles from the French Fort St. Jean Baptiste - alarmed the Spanish and they built a new presidio, or fort, to counter any further French intrusion into Spanish territory. The Presidio Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Los Adaes (Fort of Our Lady of Pilar at the Adaes) was surrounded by a hexagonal stockade with three bulwarks. In 1729, Spain designated Los Adaes the capital of the province of Texas. This made Los Adaes the official residence of the governor, and a house was constructed for him within the presidio. Los Adaes remained the administrative seat of government for the entire province for the next 44 years.
Life at Los Adaes was harsh. Poor land and crop failures meant constant food shortages and rainy weather often meant spoiled supplies. The nearest Spanish supply post was 800 miles away and that distance, combined with rain, floods and hostile Native Americans, resulted in chronic shortages of everything. Without the trade of the French at Natchitoches, the inhabitants of Los Adaes would have starved. Although Spain strictly prohibited trade with the French, the latter eagerly sought it. The French took advantage of supply shortages at Los Adaes, and an illicit trade soon flourished between the two posts.
In 1772, ten years after Louisiana was transferred to Spain, Los Adaes closed and the inhabitants moved to San Antonio. However, many of the 500 soldiers and family members soon left San Antonio and returned to Louisiana, where their descendants live today.
To the right is a diagram of the Presidio Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Los Adaes, ca. 1721, from the Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas.
North Toledo Bend State Park (9 miles south- west of Zwolle off LA 3229) - Located on Toledo Bend Reservoir, the park offers fishing, 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) - 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.
Fort Jesup State Historic Site (6 miles east of Many off LA 6, formerly the "San Antonio Trace") - The site of a fort established in 1822 by Zachary Taylor to secure the western border of the U.S. frontier. It features the original field kitchen, a replica of officers' quarters which serves as a museum and visitors center, and interpretive programs.
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.
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.
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.
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) - The 14,730-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.