Though it bears a Native American name, Natchitoches Parish contains the first permanent settlement of Europeans and Africans in the Louisiana Purchase territory. Founded by the French in 1714, the town of Natchitoches retains the Creole charms that recall its beginnings. Ignore the spelling. It is pronounced “nackatish.” The parish also contains Cane River Creole National Historical Park, part of the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail. In this part of Louisiana, antebellum Creoles of color (people primarily of mixed European and African ancestry) not only owned significant amounts of land but also slaves. The parish contains a stunning array of plantation houses, such as the 1830s-era Oaklawn, the 1821 Oakland and Beau Fort (which dates to the Spanish era). Magnolia is one the largest plantation homes, with 27 rooms and a Catholic chapel. Beyond its lovingly preserved history, Natchitoches Parish boasts natural charms, with Kisatchie National Forest in the neighborhood.