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One facet of Louisiana that makes it such an appealing visitor destination is its deep and colorful history. European explorers found their way to the region and inhabited the area very early relative to settlement of much of the rest of the continent. As a result, some communities in Louisiana are among the oldest in the United States. Before those explorers arrived, of course, people we now know as Native Americans populated the region. Reaching still farther back in time, ancient peoples left their mark on the area thousands of years ago. The state of Louisiana offers many ways to explore the region’s rich history, in hundreds of museums, historic structures, landmarks, artifacts and works of art. The careful preservation and restoration of these sites and artifacts has created many rare opportunities for visitors to experience Louisiana’s history and gain insights into the diverse cultures that continue to influence the state today.
New Roads is located in one of the oldest settlement areas in Louisiana. The town is named after a “new road” the Spanish built in 1776 between the Mississippi and the False River, northwest from Baton Rouge. But it was not founded until 1822, when a free woman of color, Catherine Depau subdivided a portion of her plantation there. Known as the “Little Carnival Capital” of Louisiana, New Roads followed New Orleans’ example by staging Mardi Gras celebrations as early as 1881. The event continues to this day, drawing thousands of visitors. A Louisiana Main Street community, New Roads is also home to several plantation estates, particularly along the False River. The river itself is actually a 15-mile oxbow lake. It was once part of the Mississippi River before it changed course and is now the scene of breathtaking natural beauty and a great spot for fishing, boating and water-skiing.