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Outside Natchitoches, the route along Highways 494 and 119 roughly follows the meandering Cane River, crossing the river several times as it angles southeasterly through the Cane River National Heritage Area. (Pick up a heritage area map at the Tourist Information Center on Front Street before leaving Natchitoches.) This agricultural region is known for its Creole-style architecture and rich mix of cultural backgrounds, including Native Americans, Europeans and Creoles of French, Spanish, African and American Indian descent.

As you amble along this mostly flat route you will pass a half-dozen historic plantation homes and museums, including Oaklawn, Cherokee, Beau Fort, Oakland and Melrose plantations, any of which is worth a stop. Melrose was established by descendants of Marie Therese Coincoin, a former slave who became a wealthy landowner and businesswoman. From Cloutierville onward, you’ll ride about 30 miles on Highway 1, which parallels Interstate 49 and passes through several small towns. If you continue on through Alexandria, use caution in the city traffic.