The Great River Road

Old Man River, Father of Waters, “body of a nation,” Big Muddy—by any name the mighty Mississippi cuts a mythic figure across the American landscape.

St. Francisville

The past is ever-present in this part of the country, so turn west off US-61 at St. Francisville and explore the myriad tales of this fascinating community, which grew up around the graveyard of a frontier-era monastery. Pick up an anecdotally rich walking-tour brochure at the West Feliciana Historical Society Museum (11757 Ferdinand St., 225/635-6330, daily 9am-5pm, free), for a sample of the architectural charms that draw visitors to this curious little town. All around St. Francisville, there are grand old manor homes, most notably at Rosedown Plantation (225/635-3332, daily, $10), on Hwy-10 just east of US-61, where a 370-acre state-run historic site preserves an 1830s main house, a pair of slave cabins, and lush formal gardens. About five miles southeast of St. Francisville on Hwy-965, the Audubon State Historic Site (225/635-3739, Tues.-Sat., $4) is also known as the Oakley House, where in 1821 naturalist and illustrator John James Audubon came to work as a resident tutor while he compiled his comprehensive Birds of America.

Along with the rich history, St. Francisville also has a couple of compelling culinary attractions: the Magnolia Cafe (225/635-6528), a wonderful little restaurant housed in the old 3V motor court complex at the corner of Commerce and Ferdinand Streets. The café moved here when its original home (a gas station) burned down in 2003, but it’s better than ever, still serving some of the best-tasting po’boys in the state that invented them. There’s also a coffeehouse-cum-art gallery and occasional cabins for overnight guests; there’s no better place to get a feel for this part of Louisiana.

Heading on from St. Francisville, race south down US-61 to Baton Rogue or snake west along Ferdinand Street head west across the river on the new John James Audubon Bridge toward Louisiana’s legendary Cajun Country.


St. Francisville

Magnolia Café (3 V Tourist Court)

Rosedown Plantation (12501 La Highway 10)

Audubon State Historic Site (11788 La Highway 965)

West Feliciana Historical Society Museum (11757 Ferdinand St.)