Ten Things to Do in Vernon Parish
Take a trip into territory that was once Louisiana's Wild West. Its rich history, gorgeous nature, delicious food and fun festivals will fill feed your soul.
Welcome to Vernon Parish! The area's rich history began as a part of the "No Man's Land" area which was a strip of disputed territory along what use to be a border with Mexico. Outlaws and bandits as well as heroes and soldiers made their mark on this fertile soil. Louisiana's Legend Country celebrates their stories that shaped the culture of today.
You can enjoy the amazing historic district in Leesville and stop for a bite in between history expeditions. Spend some time outside enjoying beautiful Lake Vernon, bird-watching on the many hiking trails or visit Wolf Rock Cave. You won't want to miss Mayfest! Start planning your trip with these top ten activities and things to do.
1. Myths & Legends Byway
Vernon Parish is known as Louisiana’s Wild West, and for good reason — this is the land where the Coushatta and Atakapa Indians, outlaws and gun-slinging characters with colorful names like Leather Britches Smith called home. The Myths & Legends Byway is part of a network of scenic backroads called the Louisiana Trails & Byways, it follows some of those intrepid travelers’ journeys. Best driven in one full day, Myths & Legends Byway begins at Burr Ferry, famed for its Civil War-era breastworks that are among the best-preserved manmade earthworks of the period. The Burr's Ferry Bridge allowed for settlers to carry goods across the Sabine River. Continue on the Myths & Legends byway as it navigates throughout Vernon and neighboring parishes giving drivers an idea of what life was like on the frontier.
2. Leesville Main Street Cultural District
Leesville's nationally accredited main street, one of only six in Louisiana, is a historic relic where visitors can take their time walking among well-preserved buildings that date back decades. Homes like the Wingate House and the Ferguson House display the history of this area. On Thursdays and Saturdays, you can visit the 3rd Street Market for local goods and produce. Gallery One Eleven is a co-op of local artists producing contemporary and traditional arts that showcase west Louisiana culture. There are plenty of other businesses and events in the neighborhood as well, in addition to events that include the Rodeo Parade (held in October), the Leesville Main Street Gumbo Cook-Off and the Louisiana State Soapbox Derby Championship.
3. Museum of West Louisiana
Located in Kansas City Southern Railway Depot, the Museum of West Louisiana houses artifacts that recall the region’s cultural history, from railroad memorabilia to logging tools, as well as Native American artifacts crafted from stone and clay. The Museum of West Louisiana also features an exhibit unlike any that you’ll find in just about any other museum — a series of paintings made by World War II-era German POWs during their time at Fort Polk military base.
4. Talbert-Pierson Cemetery
Vernon Parish’s history is evident in its cemeteries, which tell stories of the past that are unusual and fascinating. Talbert-Pierson Cemetery in Cravens is chief among them. Its 13 wooden grave houses — tiny, roofed structures containing tombs — are historic treasures in Vernon Parish. They date back decades, to a time before cemeteries were fenced, and they were believed to protect graves. The houses are constructed of local wood that have been hand-carved into artistically designed pickets.
Mayfest is the event to attend in the Vernon Parish seat, Leesville. Held the first full weekend of May every year, MayFest brings in artisans, food vendors, face painters and craftsmen of all kind from all over Louisiana and Texas. Candles, pots, hand-blown glass and many other souvenirs are on display, and the concerts showcase awesome local musicians and well-known Louisiana players who in the past have included top Cajun acts like Tab Benoit and Wayne Toups, and the “Soul Queen of New Orleans,” Irma Thomas. Not to be missed.
6. Kisatchie National Forest
The Kisatchie National Forest encompasses much of central and west Louisiana, including a portion in Vernon Parish. This expansive ecological gem includes endangered species of birds and some natural areas that will show you some highlights of Louisiana’s backcountry. Among the best is Little Cypress Recreation Area, a haven for horseback riders, off-road cyclists and boaters alike. Learn about camping with the kids Kisatchie.
7. Wolf Rock Cave & Vernon Lake
Louisiana, a caver’s paradise? Perhaps unexpected, but in Vernon Parish, there’s at least one place where climbers and explorers alike can get some exercise. Wolf Rock Cave is located in a very remote part of Kisatchie National Forest and is best accessed by high-clearance vehicles, but your efforts for getting there will be rewarded. Incredible views, rippling waters and a cave that has been used by ancient Native Americans and outdoorsmen await visitors. Or stay closer to Leesville and take advantage of the beautiful scenery, fishing and camping available at Vernon Lake. Catch a glimpse of what this beautiful recreation area has in store for you with this video of Vernon Lake.
8. Toro Bayou and the Sabine River
Toro Bayou, like Wolf Rock Cave, is a special place that is as remote as it is beautiful. This tributary of the Sabine River (located near South Toledo Bend State Park) is a pristine river that is great for kayaking and canoeing, and amenities that include both RV and tent camping.
9. Vernon Parish Restaurants
Leesville is where you’ll find down-home, Southern-style cooking. This is an easygoing, no-frills part of Louisiana where Southern food reigns at restaurants including BJ’s Diner, BubbaQue’s BBQ and Wagon Master Steakhouse.
10. Museum of the New Llano Colony
The New Llano Colony speaks to Vernon Parish’s reputation as a place where life is lived differently. It was created by a labor lawyer and Socialist politician named Job Harriman, and the colony’s namesake museum tells the story of a cooperative community (or commune) that turned its back on capitalism in the early 1900s. It’s located in the town of New Llano.
Want more attractions and things to do in the Vernon Parish area? Visit Vernon Parish for more information on restaurants, places to stay and outdoor activities awaiting you.