Explore the Louisiana Purchase area via these trails:
About this Ride (Description)
To explore the history of one of the greatest land transactions ever completed by the United States, a good place to begin is in central Louisiana. The bike tour starts in Natchitoches, the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase Territory. It winds its way along bayous and rivers until it reaches New Orleans, where French officials formally turned over the Louisiana Territory to the United States in a ceremony in 1803.
Natchitoches was founded in 1714 by Louis Juchereau de St. Denis. It was originally established as an outpost on the Red River to facilitate trade with the Spanish in Mexico. The Red River changed its course, leaving a 36-mile oxbow lake called Cane River.
Once a bustling river-port crossroads, Natchitoches gave rise to vast cotton kingdoms along the river. Affluent planters not only owned charming country plantations but kept elegant houses in town.
The tour starts in historic downtown Natchitoches and winds its way through the Cane River National Heritage Area for 33 miles. Along this rural landscape, you will see Creole-style plantations and structures that reflect the unique people that once lived along the river.
Much of the route follows the bayous that were the roadways in the 18th and 19th centuries. Roads were few and usually in poor condition. So the towns that sprang up in the 1800s were along the navigable waterways. Plantations were located on or near these waterways that provided a route to New Orleans for their crops.
Along the way you will visit Marksville, the site of the Indian village that dates to 1400 A.D. You will travel along the Morganza Spillway, a floodplain for the Atchafalaya and Mississippi Rivers.
The route goes through Pointe Coupee Parish, one of the earliest settled areas in the Louisiana Purchase. For 300 years, the Creole French culture has flourished here and attracted planters to farm its rich fertile delta soil. Some of the nation’s largest sugar plantations are still thriving on land surrounding the city of New Roads.
As you continue on your way, you will follow Bayou Grosse Tete and Bayou Plaquemine to the Plaquemine Locks. Bayou Plaquemine was used as a commercial transport route, promoting settlement and economic prosperity in southwest and northern Louisiana via the Atchafalaya, Red and other rivers. The locks enabled vessels from the Mississippi River to enter Bayou Plaquemine and created a short-cut from the Mississippi River into Louisiana’s interior.
The last leg of the tour follows the River Road into New Orleans. Along the way, you’ll see several of the grand plantations of the River Road – Nottoway, Oak Alley, Laura and Evergreen. All are open for tours except Evergreen.
The grand finale of the tour is New Orleans. You’ll cross by ferry at Gretna or Algiers and find yourself in one of the world’s most exciting cities. New Orleans is known for its food, music and historic sites. Spend at least two days exploring the Vieux Carré, the Garden District, the historic above-ground cemeteries, and the restaurants and music halls.
If you want to explore New Orleans by bike, print out the information in the Greater New Orleans section of this Web site. Bon voyage and bon appetit!