Named after the area’s Native American inhabitants, Natchitoches is the oldest permanent settlement of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. It was originally founded in 1714 by a French Canadian explorer, Louis Antoine Juchereau de St. Denis, before the establishment of French Creole cotton-producing plantations in the antebellum period.
Things to do in Natchitoches
Natchitoches makes an ideal base for visiting the Cane River National Heritage Area, which encompasses two French Creole cotton plantations - Oakland and Magnolia. It preserves the history of plantation agriculture and the stories of enslaved workers within its period-furnished mansions and well-preserved outbuildings. Also within the Cane River National Heritage Area is Kate Chopin House where the author of “The Awakening” once lived.
Athletes and coaches alike are celebrated at the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, which features interactive exhibits and films documenting the achievements of local sporting legends. Inductees include the Olympic medal-winning runner Audrey “Mickey” Patterson and Archie Manning, who played as a quarterback for the New Orleans Saints. The Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame shares its setting with the Northwest Louisiana History Museum, which traces the area’s cultural heritage.
In the south of Natchitoches is the Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site, which centres around a replica of an 18th-century French fort. Originally used as a military outpost to counter Spanish incursions, it was later used as a trade hub with the neighbouring Caddo people. Wander between the pine log huts, chapel and storeroom while learning about life here in the 1750s.
Getting around Natchitoches
Natchitoches is just over an hour’s drive from Shreveport and Shreveport Regional Airport, which has flights to destinations across the United States. Long-distance buses connect to Natchitoches while local services travel throughout the city. The centre of Natchitoches can easily be explored on foot.