Televisions shows like Survivor and Naked and Afraid might captivate contemporary viewers, but hundreds of years ago, true outdoor heroics unfolded along the swampy southern reaches of Bayou Lafourche. It was here that Acadian exiles settled, adapting to its harsh conditions as they developed a whole new way of life. Learn about these determined and rugged people at the Jean Lafitte Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center in the heart of Thibodaux, part of the multi-site national park system that showcases the region’s history.
Jean Lafitte Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center
Exiled from Nova Scotia for refusing to pledge allegiance to Britain, many Acadians sought refuge and made a new home along Bayou Lafourche. These innovative “Cajuns” hunted, fished, trapped, built boats, and developed dwellings ingeniously adapted to their new environment. Alongside its engaging interpretative exhibits and artifacts, the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center also offers ranger guided boat tours along Bayou Lafourche, that introduce the area’s distinct topography and wildlife. See where the pirate Jean Lafitte once profiteered, and where native peoples and settlers braved heat, mosquitoes, alligators, and more to forge their distinct cultures.
While in Thibodaux, take time to wind through historically significant Laurel Valley Village and Sugar Plantation to learn more about the impact of the sugar industry on Lafourche Parish. Schedule a one-hour walking tour to explore the sprawling site, the largest surviving 19th and 20th sugar plantation in the United States with more than 50 original structures remaining. One of the Bayou Region’s most picturesque spots, Laurel Valley Village has been a production location for both large and small films, including Angel Heart, Interview with the Vampire, and Ray. Situated on the bayou, the site includes a former general store, original slave cabins, a schoolhouse, church, the ruins of the sugar mill, and cane fields that are still in operation.
The Laurel Valley Village in Thibodaux
Next, head downstream to the town of Golden Meadow for a visit to Chine’s Cajun Net Shop, a local institution where Lawrence “Chine” (pronounced Chiney) Terrebonne and his small team make and repair the Cajun fishing nets used by the commercial shrimpers who dock nearby. The friendly folks here are happy to provide demonstrations on how this rare craft is performed. Don’t forget to bring home your own souvenir net to show the folks at home.
One of the original nineteen parishes created from the territory of Orleans in 1807, Lafourche Parish is one of the oldest parishes in Louisiana. To learn more about its fascinating history, click HERE.