Thursday, December 21, 2006

HIKING THE HILLS


HIKING THE HILLS
near St. Francisville, Louisiana
by Anne Butler

After the stress and overstimulation of the holiday season, however enjoyable, there’s something soothing, even healing, in seeking the solitude and stillness of unspoiled wilderness, especially when combined with strenuous physical activity. The Tunica Hills surrounding the St. Francisville area provide the perfect antidote for the post-Christmas crash.

Clark Creek
Clark Creek photo by H.Cancienne

The wintry winds whirl dead leaves from the hardwood trees, opening scenic forest vistas not visible in the lush crowded overgrowth of summer, while falling temperatures remove that triumvirate of aggravations suffered by the summer outdoorsman--snakes, poison ivy and mosquitoes, making late winter and early spring the perfect time for all sorts of outdoor activities in these hills, from biking to hiking, hunting to horseback riding, nature photography to unsurpassed birding.

Clark Creek
Clark Creek photo by H.Cancienne

Ranging from St. Francisville, Louisiana, northwest into neighboring Mississippi along the Mississippi River, the steep Tunica Hills provide the ideal backdrop for any outdoor activity, including some of the most challenging hiking in the gulf south. Rare rugged land formations found only in a narrow strip from West Feliciana on north into Tennessee, the Tunica Hills are loessial ridges created tens of thousands of years ago by dust storms of the Glacier period which swept in from the western plains carrying powdery fertile soil to form vertical cliffs up to 90 feet high resting on the sand-clay bottom of an ancient sea bed.

Botanists and zoologists find that the deep cool ravines harbor rarities like wild ginseng, Eastern chipmunks and other flora and fauna found nowhere else in Louisiana besides this unique microclimate. Bicyclists and Sunday drivers appreciate the area's quiet country roads, some so ancient they began life as prehistoric game trails stamped indelibly into the soil of lands claimed by Native Americans, first the Houmas and then the Tunica Indians, long before the first Europeans arrived. Birdwatchers find the area still provides habitat for the same rich abundance of birdlife that so inspired artist-naturalist John James Audubon in the 1820's that he painted many of his famous bird studies right here. And for experienced hikers, this is paradise, especially in the winter without the heat and humidity that can wilt the will of even the most determined summer outdoorsman.

Pond General Store
Pond General Store photo by H.Cancienne

The popular Clark Creek Natural Area just across the Louisiana state line near Pond, Mississippi, has challenging trails leading to a series of spectacular spring-fed waterfalls, some cascading 30 feet or more into pools lined with huge clay boulders. The hills here are heavily forested with mixed hardwood and pine; besides large beech, hickory, sweet gum, elm and magnolia trees, Clark Creek has several world-record-setting trees, a Mexican Plum and Bigleaf Snowbell. The damp cool creekbeds provide habitat for rare trilliums, jack-in-the-pulpit, violets and a huge variety of ferns, mosses, lichens and mushrooms, while the surrounding woodlands harbor a multitude of small mammals, whitetail deer, wild turkey and both resident and migratory birdlife, as well as endangered species like the black bear.

Creek Bed
Clark Creek photo by H.Cancienne

This 700+-acre preserve was established in 1978 as a cooperative endeavor between the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, the MS Wildlife Heritage Committee, the Nature Conservancy, Wilkinson County, David Bramlette and International Paper Co. which donated the core tract of 430 acres as the first industrial gift of land set aside specifically as a natural area in the state. In the Pond community 13 miles west of Woodville, MS, and 20 miles northwest of the intersection of US 61 and LA 66 just above St. Francisville, LA, the area is open for daytime public use only.

This is a steep, rugged area and a demanding hike; undulating ridges rise several hundred feet above the sandy creek bed in places. It is accessible only by foot; no hunting or motorized vehicles are allowed. There are primitive restroom facilities in the parking area just past the Pond Store, but the bulk of the area is pristine wilderness, undeveloped except for several established trails and some helpful stairs. Hikers should be sure to wear good sturdy footwear with traction and carry plenty of water. Daily Use Permit envelopes are available at the parking area kiosk for paying the $3 entry fee, and hikers should be sure to pick up park maps from the parking area (call 601-888-6040 for the Clark Creek Natural Area office) or from nearby Pond Store before entering the trail system.


Clark Creek photo by H.Cancienne

In the 19th century, a stockpond was built by the county as a watering place for the teams of oxen and mules hauling cotton down the steep hill to the riverport at Fort Adams, and from it the little store built beside it took its name. The present Pond Store & Post Office dates from 1881, when its predecesor, opened by early Jewish merchants Barthold and Karl Lehman, burned. This is the quintessential old-time country store, complete with creaking wood-plank floors, wood stove and old-fashioned display cases providing a veritable museum of the emporium’s wares in days gone by, including the 1916 inventory list featuring a one-bedroom suite (dresser, armoire and washstand) for $17.50 and an iron bed for the princely sum of $1.50. Visitors should take time to chat with congenial longtime proprietor Liz Chaffin, who dispenses Clark Creek maps, historic lore and plenty of southern charm along with bottled water and snacks all day Friday and Saturday, and Sunday afternoons. There are a couple of rustic cabins here that provide an ideal overnight spot for hikers just a few hundred yards from the Clark Creek Natural Area entry point (call 601-888-4426), and the St. Francisville area also abounds in B&Bs.

Other popular hiking spots are the Tunica Hills Wildlife Management Area, with several thousand acres of rugged hills, high bluffs and deep shaded ravines maintained by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (225-765-2360 for regulations governing its use) in two separate tracts for public hunting, trapping, hiking, riding, birding and sightseeing; and Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge along the Mississippi River west of St. Francisville. One of the largest tracts of virgin wetland forest along the Mississippi not protected by levees from cyclical flooding, Cat Island is sometimes inundated by 15 to 20 feet of water in the spring and supports huge populations of wintering waterfowl as well as the world's largest Bald Cypress tree, believed to be 800 to 1500 years old and an astounding 83 feet tall. Visitors to these areas should be cognizant of hunting seasons and take necessary precautions.

Less strenuous hiking is offered by the Nature Conservancy’s Mary Ann Brown Preserve southeast of St. Francisville near the Arnold Palmer-designed golf course at The Bluffs on Thompson Creek, with over 100 acres of deep ravines and loblolly pine forests traversed by interpretive trails (call the Nature Conservancy at 225-338-1040). Yet another enjoyable way to take in the scenery of the Tunica Hills is on horseback, and Cross Creek Stables (225-655-4233) offers gaited horses for three-hour morning or afternoon rides; advance reservations are a must for rides along the sunken roadbed of the historic Old Tunica Road or on trails in the wildlife management area.

Located on US Highway 61 on the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge, LA, and Natchez, MS, the St. Francisville area makes the perfect base for hiking trips through the Tunica Hills and is a year-round tourist destination, with six historic plantations--Rosedown and Audubon State Historic Sites, Butler Greenwood, the Myrtles, the Cottage and Greenwood--open for daily tours, Catalpa Plantation open by reservation and Afton Villa Gardens seasonally. Reasonably priced meals are available in a nice array of restaurants in St. Francisville, and eclectic shops fill restored 19th-century structures throughout the National Register-listed historic downtown area Some of the state's best Bed and Breakfasts offer overnight accommodations ranging from golf clubs and lakeside resorts to historic townhouses and country plantations; a modern motel has facilities to accommodate busloads. For online coverage of tourist facilities, attractions and events in the St. Francisville area, see www.stfrancisville.us,
www.stfrancisville.net or www.stfrancisvilleovernight.com, or telephone (225) 635-3873 or 635-6330.




High resolution photos for media use, email pat@bluegoosemedia.com

Farewell to the St. Francisville Ferry




FAREWELL TO THE ST. FRANCISVILLE FERRY
by Anne Butler


Ferry at Sunset by Henry Cancienne
Ferry at Sunset by H.Cancienne
Construction of land approaches began in October 2006, and when the entire project is completed in the summer of 2011, St. Francisville and New Roads will be linked by the longest cable-stayed bridge in North America. The gorgeous four-lane John James Audubon Bridge across the Mississippi River will be 1,583 feet long and supported by 136 steel cables stretching from towers built over drilled concrete-filled steel shafts sunk deep into the riverbottom. Estimated cost: $348 million.
The bridge will be an important east-west connector for the Zachary Taylor Parkway and a great boon for economic development. It is welcomed especially by those living on one side of the river and working on the other, whose commute time and expense greatly increase whenever the current ferry link is disabled.

But progress always comes with a price. The bridge will be big. The bridge will be fast. The bridge will be reliable. But match the charm of the car ferry across the mighty Mississippi, with windswept tourists standing at the rail marveling at the swift current and romantics admiring spectacular sunsets setting the muddy waters afire? Never.

Back in the 1930s, the ferry system between New Roads and St. Francisville consisted of two old tugs, The Melville and The Red Cross, pushing a wooden barge that could hold only 9 cars, which was plenty back in the days when a mere 20 vehicles crossed the river a day.

New Roads to St. Francisville, La
Crossing the River by ptWalsh
Retired ferry captain Morris Bennett of St. Francisville knows a thing or two about the river. He’s spent a lifetime on it, and there are those who say he has river water running in his veins. Son of longtime ferry captain P.M. Bennett, Morris Bennett as a child operated the pumps on the leaky old vessels his father was running, and by the time he reached 11 or 12 years of age he was running the ferry himself; he became a licenced pilot while still in high school and when he retired he was one of the Mississippi’s most respected boat masters. There were a lot of changes in all those years. “We used to drink the river water,” Bennett says today, “but now I wouldn’t even wash my hands in it.”

In those years Capt. Morris Bennett saw it all, ferrying not just vehicles but elephants and monkeys, runaway boar hogs and midstream motorcycle weddings, moonshiners and revenuers, through hurricanes, ice floes, fires and earthquakes. He came close to delivering babies more than once, and came close to losing his own life on the river as well. In the 1946 hurricane the Bennetts rode out the storm on the ferry and were swamped, with water in the wheelhouse and waves washing them out onto the bank where they held onto willow trees for dear life; their barge was washed up 12 feet on the bank.

He remembers in 1939 when the ice floes in the river were 8 feet deep, and another cold winter when a propeller was lost midstream and his father had to get overboard to fix it, requiring plenty of liquid refreshment to keep him from freezing to death. Said Morris Bennett, “That river is the hottest place in the world in the summer and the coldest place in winter.” He tried to get away from it once, briefly taking a job on land. “I didn’t like it,” he says simply, and he went right back to the river for half a century.

The ferry usually ran from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., but local folks knew all they had to do was ask and they’d be taken across whenever there was an emergency, whatever the time. The ferry was also called upon to transport the local firetrucks out into the river to fight fires on passing tugs or barges, or transfer wounded seamen from other vessels to medical facilities ashore.
Sunrise with Eagle by ptWalsh
Eagle over Mississippi River by ptWalsh
Morris Bennett is a natural-born storyteller, and he has a wealth of material from his years of running the boat. He remembers an old Model A truck loaded with chickens whose driver carelessly lit up a cigar too close to the fumes coming from the overheated gas tank. The ensuing explosion sent chickens flying and caught the boat railing on fire, and the crew just had water buckets for fighting fires back then. Folks living along the river ate plenty of chicken for some time afterward.
The ferry crew would also help evacuate cattle from flooded swamplands at nearby Cat Island when the river rose, and Morris Bennett recalls spending days trying to capture one big old bull. When somebody finally got a rope on the bull, it broke away and Morris and his father, in a pirogue, caught the flying end of the rope, which proved to be a big mistake, with the bull wheeling and getting into the pirogue with them and Morris setting a record for shinnying up a cypress tree. Other times, back gates would swing open on packed cattle trailers trying to board and there’d be more excitement on the ferry ramp than at a rodeo.

Old-time traveling circuses used to cross the river on the ferry, and when their old trucks couldn’t pull the grade on the ramp, they’d unload the elephants to push the circus wagons up the hill. And then there was the monkey that got loose onboard and made his way to the pilothouse, where, Morris says, “it was a standoff for awhile.”
Late at night, the bootleggers would cross, waiting until the last minute when the whistle blew to make sure the revenuers weren’t aboard, their old trucks loaded with chicken crates and a few moth-eaten chickens to make them look legitimate. And then there were the fully loaded gravel trucks, a couple of which slipped out of gear or lost their brakes, careened down the steep approach ramp and drove straight across the ferry deck and off the other side into the depths of the river.


Leaving SF dock
Leaving the Dock by Pat Walsh
Today the ferries are operated by the state and are all one piece, not tugs and barges, with 40-car capacities. They cross over a thousand vehicles every day and have over 1000 horsepower, compared to the early boats whose 30 hp sometimes left them at the mercy of the strong current. The present ferries also have all kinds of modern equipment, radar and radios instead of just a compass, and real life preservers instead of just cypress boards. “We used to have a four-car barge and had to squeeze the fourth car on by bouncing the third car over; no way they could have opened their doors if the ferry went down,” recalls Bennett.

Visitors from other areas are amazed to find that the ferry is part of the state highway system, and they are thrilled to be able to see the mighty Mississippi River up close and personal as they cross from West Feliciana Parish to Pointe Coupee and back again. The wait is rarely long, providing an opportunity to slow down and watch the barge traffic on the river while enjoying one of Miss Emily’s homemade pralines from her little red wagon concession stand and contemplating the fate of Bayou Sara, that important antebellum cotton-era riverport that once occupied these empty fields along the riverfront until the floodwaters washed away all signs of life.

Like we said, the new bridge will be big. The new bridge will be fast. The new bridge will be reliable. But Miss Emily won’t be strolling along the approach road pulling her little red wagon full of homemade pralines, and there won’t be time to watch as the setting sun paints a string of barges dayglow pink. Captain Morris Bennett, or his replacement pilots, won’t be fending off monkeys in the pilothouse, and the out-of-state tourists won’t be clinging to the rail in the stiff river breeze. And all of us will have lost a little something in the year 2010 as we whiz across a bridge high above the waters of the Mississippi.

Rosedown Plantation State Historic Site
Camellia at Rosedown by ptWalsh
Now’s the perfect time to visit the little Mississippi River town of St. Francisville, while the ferry’s still running. Located on US Highway 61 between Baton Rouge, LA, and Natchez, MS, the St. Francisville area is a year-round tourist destination, but visitors find it especially enjoyable in the winter of the year when the antebellum gardens are filled with blooming camellias. On February 9th and 10th, the Feliciana Nature Society joins Rosedown State Historic Site to present Camellias In The Country, featuring receptions, guided tours through one of the country’s great 19th-century gardens filled with hundreds of fine heirloom specimen camellias, planting and pruning demonstrations, photography exhibits and more (online, see http://www.audubonbirdfest.com/).


Six historic St. Francisville area plantations--Rosedown and Audubon State Historic Sites, Butler Greenwood, the Myrtles, the Cottage and Greenwood--are open for daily tours, Catalpa Plantation is open by reservation and Afton Villa Gardens seasonally. Eclectic shops fill restored 19th-century structures throughout the downtown area, reasonably priced meals are available in a nice array of restaurants in St. Francisville, and some of the state's best Bed and Breakfasts offer overnight accommodations ranging from golf clubs and lakeside resorts to historic townhouses and country plantations; a modern motel has facilities to accommodate busloads. The scenic unspoiled Tunica Hills region surrounding St. Francisville offers excellent biking, hiking, fishing, birding, horseback riding and other recreational activities.
And for goodness sake, don’t forget to experience the ferry ride across the Mississippi River, even if you don’t intend to stay on the other side; ride back and forth, and a nominal fee is charged only one way. The main street of St. Francisville, Ferdinand St., runs right through the National Register-listed Historic District directly to the ferry. For online coverage of tourist facilities, attractions and events in the St. Francisville area, see http://www.stfrancisville.us/ or http://www.stfrancisvilleovernight.com/, or telephone (225) 635-3873 or 635-6330.
High resolution photos for media use, email Patrick Walsh pat@bluegoosemedia.com or BlueGooseMedia.com

A Celebration of Readers and Writers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Virginia R. Smith, phone:(225)635-6162; email vrsmith@bsf.net; or Linda Fox, phone (225)635-3364; email biblio@iwon.com


The West Feliciana Parish Library and the Friends of the West Feliciana Library present “A Celebration of Readers and Writers”:
Codrescu, Cullen, Domingue and Hill
Saturday, February 24, 2007, at the Oxbow Restaurant in St. Francisville.

Plan to be part of a grand occasion to hear 4 Louisiana authors in person in a comfortable and delicious setting! Beginning at 8:30 with coffee and pastries, Ed Cullen, Ronlyn Domingue and Ernest Hill will discuss their writing styles and subjects, followed by a 12:30 luncheon with the main speaker Andrei Codrescu. A book signing for all four authors will be held from 11:30 to 12:30. Copies of their books will be available for purchase, cash or checks only.

Tickets for the morning session only, including coffee and pastries and the book signing, are $10 a person. Tickets for the entire day including lunch and Mr. Codrescu, are $35. Tickets must be purchased in advance by February 22, either by mail at West Feliciana Library @ Box 3120, St. Francisville 70775 or in person at 11865 Ferdinand St., St. Francisville. For more information, call the Library Director at 225-784-0260.

Andrei Codrescu
A poet, novelist, essayist, screenwriter, and commentator for NPR’s All Things Considered, ANDREI CODRESCU is the MacCurdy Distinguished Professor of English at Louisiana State University and the editor of the literary journal Exquisite Corpse. His most recent book is New Orleans, Mon Amour: Twenty Years of Writing from the City

Ed Cullen
Ed Cullen's Attic Salt appears on the front of the Sunday People section. The column's name, which means "subtly humorous or poignant," gives Cullen a lot of latitude. An essayist on All Things Considered, National Public Radio's afternoon news and feature program from Washington, D.C. Cool Springs Press published Letter in a Woodpile, a collection of his NPR essays and newspaper columns, last spring.

Ronlyn Domingue
Ronlyn Domingue received her MFA in creative writing from Louisiana State University in 2003. She has worked as a grassroots organizer, project manager, teacher, and grant writer. Her short stories have appeared in New England Review, Clackamas Literary Review, and New Delta Review. Born and raised in Louisiana, she lives there still. The Mercy of Thin Air is her first novel and has sold in nine other countries to date.

Ernest Hill
The novelist Ernest Hill holds degrees from the University of California at Berkeley, Cornell University, and UCLA. His novels include Satisfied With Nothin', A Life for a Life, Cry Me a River, It's All About the Moon When the Sun Ain't Shining and, most recently, A Person of Interest. He was born in Oak Grove, Louisiana and currently lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he is the Writer-In-Residence at Southern University.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Christmas in the Country 2006









HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Christmas in the Country in St. Francisville, LA
by Anne Butler
Home! That heart-warming concept resonates with meaning in Louisiana these days with so many residents still in makeshift quarters, and that’s the theme of this year’s joyous holiday celebration called Christmas In The Country in the quaint little 19th-century rivertown of St. Francisville, Louisiana, the first weekend in December. Highlight of the festivities is always the Saturday afternoon parade, this year marching under the banner of “Home For The Holidays.” And for those who lost homes in the disasters of 2005, the residents of St. Francisville’s Historic District graciously share theirs through a new feature this year, “A Glimpse Of Our Holiday Homes,” inviting visitors to satisfy their curiosity about what lies behind the lace curtains as they peep through designated decorated windows at families gathered around the hearth or singing carols beside the Christmas tree, reminder that home is where the heart is.

Santa Arrives in St. Francisville














In St. Francisville, millions of tiny white lights trace soaring Victorian trimwork and grace gallery posts swagged with greenery to transform this picturesque village into a veritable winter wonderland for Christmas In The Country December 1, 2 and 3. A safe small-town celebration of the season that has for decades provided a joyful alternative to mall madness, the event is so popular that the Southeast Tourism Society has selected it as one of this year’s Top Twenty regional festivals for the month, a highly coveted honor.

The merchants of the town started Christmas In The Country as encouragement to shop locally in the magnificent historic setting that St. Francisville provides. Some of those merchants, like Fay Daniel of The Shanty Too, have been involved for more than three decades, spearheading an event they still get excited about. When a local children’s book included her as a character, this talented shopowner was described as “Miss Fay Daniel, who wasn’t exactly a child any more, but she didn’t know it, and nobody had the heart to tell her.” And that childlike excitement and exuberance over the coming of Christmas is exactly what Christmas In The Country still provides, thanks to Fay Daniel and the other hard-working organizers of this popular seasonal festival. This is especially true as evening falls; the drive through town after dark is truly spectacular with all the twinkling lights, and visitors should be sure not to miss the 75,000-light extravaganza next to the local jail.

Activities in Parker Memorial Park


Beginning at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1, Santa Claus comes to town to kick off the Lighting Ceremony of the Town Christmas Tree, followed by a public reception at Town Hall hosted by jovial longtime St. Francisville mayor Billy D'Aquilla and featuring performances by the First Baptist Church Children’s Choir. Also Friday evening at 7, the St. Francisville Symphony Association presents its annual concert of seasonal selections at historic Grace Episcopal Church featuring members of the Baton Rouge Symphony’s brass ensemble; a reception follows. Tickets are available from symphony board members or the Bank of St. Francisville (225-635-6397, extension 231).

Saturday, Dec. 2, begins with a 7:30 a.m. Community Prayer Breakfast at United Methodist Church on Royal St. This will be followed by Breakfast with St. Nick for children at Jackson Hall next to Grace Church at 8:30 and 10 a.m., sponsored by the Women’s Service League (advance tickets recommended; call 225-202-5403). Throughout the day there are fun childrens’ activities, pictures with Santa (10-4) and a multitude of food vendors in Parker Park. There will also be all manner of entertainment in various locations throughout the downtown historic district, featuring choirs, dancers, musicians, artisans and other performers. Musical entertainment ranges from the angelic voices of children’s choirs to strolling quartets to the raucous rocking Angola Prison Band.

St. Francisville’s annual Christmas Parade is everybody's favorite small-town holiday parade, sponsored for decades by the local charitable group called the Women's Service League, which also sponsors the sale of immense natural Christmas wreaths on Ferdinand St. to finance dozens of community service projects throughout the year. The parade rolls down Ferdinand St. to Commerce St. beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday. Gaily decorated parade floats vie for coveted prizes, while high school cheerleaders, band members, marching ROTC units and dancers liven things up. There will also be bagpipes, clowns, vintage cars, and representatives of parish and town law enforcement and fire departments, all flinging plenty of candy and parade favors. Santa rides resplendent in a magnificent sleigh pulled by Louisiana State Penitentiary's immense prized Percheron draft horses, groomed and gleaming in the sunlight with their sleigh bells jingling.

The United Methodist Church’s presents its old-fashioned Christmas Carol Sing-Along at 6 p.m. Also from 6 to 8 Saturday evening visitors have the rare opportunity of touring by candlelight the authentically decorated Oakley Plantation house at Audubon
State Historic Site. At 7 p.m., the St. Francisville Transitory Theatre presents “Yonder Star," a free progressive play starting at Sainte-Reine on Royal Street, progressing to nearby Propinquity, and thence to the parish courthouse and across Ferdinand Street to conclude at historic Grace Episcopal Church, turning playgoers into pilgrims anticipating the birth of the Christ Child.

Local merchant's stock with Christmas items


Beginning at noon on Sunday, December 3, a Tour of Homes opens the doors to beautifully decorated private contemporary homes to benefit the Audubon Library; tickets are available at the parish library on Ferdinand St., or by calling 225-635-3364.

The real focal point of Christmas in the Country remains the St. Francisville area's marvelous little shops, all of which go all out for this special weekend, hosting Open Houses for shoppers while offering spectacular seasonal decorations and great gift items. The Historic District of St. Francisville, thanks to an enthusiastic Main Street Program and sensitive preservation regulations, maintains its historic character hand-in-hand with present-day economic viability; this downtown area is very much alive, in fact the center of life in the community.

Welcome to Christmas in the Country


A variety of quaint little shops occupy historic structures throughout the downtown area and spread into the outlying district, each unique in its own way, and visitors should not miss a single one. From the rich Victoriana of The Shanty Too, for more than thirty years the anchor of the downtown business community and always noted for spectacular Christmas decorations, to the eclectic selection of garden ornaments and chic clothing at Mosaic Garden, to the jewelry beautifully crafted from vintage buttons at Grandmother's Buttons or from beads at The Beaded Path, downtown St. Francisville is filled with fine shopping opportunities. Artist Herschel Harrington has a studio displaying his own works, while the St. Francis and Backwoods Galleries exhibit other local artists' works as well. There’s a used bookstore full of fascinating reading material and some rare autographed early editions, as well as a Christian-oriented bookstore and the ecclectic artsy offerings cum cappacinos of Birdman Books and Coffee.

The West Feliciana Historical Society’s tourist center and museum also has a large variety of tasteful souvenir and gift items, regional books and prints.

Choir at Historic Society















On the outskirts of town, intrepid shoppers won't want to miss the one-of-a-kind collectibles at the Vintage Store on US 61 south and Border Imports with its huge inventory of Mexican pottery, ironwork and concrete statuary on US 61 north. Hillcrest Gardens and Interiors overflows with fine gift items and children’s clothing at LA 10 and Commerce St., with The Nest next door housing all sorts of varied vintage treasure in several buildings and Avondale Antiques resurrecting an old quarters shotgun house. Destinee’s Clay Pot and Magic Maker are florists with small gift items as well, and Ins’N’Outs Nursery is well stocked for those giving living green gifts this year. Sage Hill is a newly opened antiques store in a wonderful restored structure across from the post office. On US Highway 61 at LA 10 is an elegant antique mall and outdoor sculpture garden filled with a revolving selection of wares called the Audubon Antique Gallery, in contrast with the nearby Radio Shack full of the latest techno gadgets.

Most of the plantations in the St. Francisville area have gift shops as well, and a visit to those would allow enjoyment of the beautiful seasonal decorations there.

Christmas Gifts for all.



The two state historic sites in the St. Francisville area, elegant 1835 Rosedown Plantation with its glorious 19th-century formal gardens and Oakley Plantation in the Audubon State Historic Site where artist-naturalist John James Audubon tutored the daughter of plantation owners and painted many of his famous bird studies in the early 1820's, are decorated in period style with lots of natural greenery, fruits and nuts, and both offer seasonal activities and demonstrations throughout the month of December. At Oakley open-hearth cooking will be demonstrated all three days of Christmas In The Country, while Rosedown offers cut-rate garden tours.

Located on US Highway 61 on the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge, LA, and Natchez, MS, the St. Francisville area is a year-round tourist destination, but visitors find it especially enjoyable in the winter of the year when the antebellum gardens are filled with blooming camellias. Six historic plantations-Rosedown and Audubon State Historic Sites, Butler Greenwood, the Myrtles, the Cottage and Greenwood-are open for daily tours, Catalpa Plantation is open by reservation and Afton Villa Gardens seasonally. Reasonably priced meals are available in a nice array of restaurants in St. Francisville, and some of the state's best Bed and Breakfasts offer overnight accommodations ranging from golf clubs and lakeside resorts to historic townhouses and country plantations; a modern motel has facilities to accommodate busloads. The scenic unspoiled Tunica Hills region surrounding St. Francisville offers excellent biking, hiking, fishing, birding, horseback riding and other recreational activities.

For online coverage of tourist facilities, attractions and events in the St. Francisville area, see www.stfrancisville.us or www.stfrancisvilleovernight.com, or telephone (225) 635-3873 or 635-6330.

High resolution photos for media use, email Patrick Walsh pat@bluegoosemedia.com or BlueGooseMedia.com

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Updated Schedule - Heritage in the Hills

HERITAGE IN THE HILLS

FRIDAY-NOVEMBER 3, 2006
5pm-7pm Friends of the Library Masonic Hall
Members & New Members Reception $10.00

6:30pm-8:30pm Royal Hotel Findings Historical Society Museum
Reception showcasing the archaeological findings from the new Courthouse Annex

7:30pm-10:00pm Music at the Mag Magnolia Café
ROOT 61

SATURDAY – NOVEMBER 4, 2006

9am-3pm Friends of the Library Book Sale Masonic Hall

9am-4pm Plantation Arts of the 19th Century Rosedown SHS
Demonstrating leatherworks, calligraphy, spinning,
Basket weaving, down-hearth cooking & use of the
Shaving horse. Antebellum dance class under the
Alley of oaks leading to the home.

9am-4pm A 19th Century Day at a Plantation Audubon SHS
Candle-making, soap making, open-hearth cooking &
Other skills as well as the use of black powder in the
Civil War Era.

9am-5pm Royal Hotel Findings Exhibit Historical Society Museum

10am-4pm Art in the Park Parker Memorial Park
Local Artists creating and selling their wares

11am-1pm Backyard Blues Parker Memorial Park Gazebo
2pm-4pm Fugitive Poets Parker Memorial Park Gazebo

10am-4pm Music at the Mansions $25.00 Ticket
Tickets are for sale at the Historical Society Museum
Ticket price includes entrance to all Plantation Homes
For music, activities and tour of the home.

10am-Noon Butler Greenwood Plantation Highway 61
Magnolia Baptist Church Choir
Noon-2pm Cottage Plantation Highway 61
The Gospel Wonders
2pm-4pm Greenwood Plantation Highland Road
Bill Caldwell Music of the Old South
2pm Rosedown Plantation SHS Highway 10
Southern Vintage Dancers Under the Oaks

10am-5pm Shop the Main
Visit the downtown merchants for
excellent holiday shopping specials

1pm-4pm Opening Reception Birdman Coffee
Honoring Artist Paul Schexnayder

5pm-7pm Music by the Original House Band Que Pasa ******NEW TIME******

7pm Music by Karuna Spoon Birdman Coffee

8pm Music by Run Jane Run Cypress Grill

SUNDAY-NOVEMBER 5, 2006

11am-2pm Friends of the Library Book Sale Masonic Hall

ST. FRANCISVILLE MAIN STREET

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Fall Photo Opportunities

Outdoor Photography in the Area
- October, 2007

While the birds are still heading south, there's plenty good photo opportunities around St. Francisville, Louisiana. Grap your camera equipment, book a room in this Bed & Breakfast Community and enjoy.









Photos by ptWalsh, taken just north of St. Francisville, La. - home to the Audubon Country BirdFest, held annually. March 30, 31 & April 1, 2007 - Information

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Local Receives National Award

JAMES 'LARRY' KEITH NAMED AS RECIPIENT OF
2006 TAKE PRIDE IN AMERICA® NATIONAL AWARD

Executive Director Michelle Cangelosi named James 'Larry' Keith as a recipient of the 2006 Take Pride in America National Award in the Individual category. Twenty-eight individuals and groups will be honored for their outstanding volunteer efforts on Federal, state and local public lands at an awards ceremony to be held September 14 at the Department of the Interior in Washington, DC.


"It's quite an honor to be selected for a National award for doing something I like to do. It makes me proud to live in a country that offers the opportunity to volunteer. I would encourage others to volunteer to help maintain these natural resources and to be pro-active in looking for volunteer opportunities that you like to do," James 'Larry' Keith said.



The Take Pride in America National Awards are given annually and this year's winners were selected from nominations representing individuals, groups and projects in 32 different states. The judges, representatives of government agencies within the Department of the Interior, scored the applications based upon the scope of their work, the measurable impact of their results, their collaborative partnership and their demonstration of the mission of Take Pride.

"These Take Pride award winners embody the mission of Take Pride by accepting responsibility and taking action to enhance our public lands," Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne said. "It is through their stewardship that they are creating a lasting legacy within their community."

"The nominations were outstanding, as we learned more about the hard work and generous donation of time by volunteers across our country. This is an exciting time of year because we can celebrate and thank volunteers for their service to our public lands," Cangelosi said. "It is an honor to invite James Keith to Washington, DC to be recognized for his continued commitment to our parks, refuges and recreation areas."

James 'Larry' Keith was selected as one of this year's award winners because of his dedicated volunteer service at the three National Wildlife Refuges managed under the Central Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Marksville, Louisiana, but especially for his volunteer service at Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge, located in St. Francisville, Louisiana.

Take Pride in America, an initiative of the U.S. Department of the Interior, is a nationwide partnership program which inspires Americans to volunteer in caring for their public lands. Their goal is to instill an active sense of ownership and responsibility in every citizen for natural, cultural and historic resources, and to support and recognize the efforts of those who volunteer for public lands. Through a web-based search engine, Take Pride offers a database for short-term and long-term volunteer projects on public lands, as well as assistance for project planning. Additionally, Take Pride rewards exceptional volunteer service by individuals and groups with awards and appreciation certificates. For more information, visit www.TakePride.gov.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

West Feliciana Tour of Homes

Friends of the West Feliciana Library

P. O. Box 517

St. Francisville, LA 70775

For immediate release


Contact: Virginia Smith, 225/635-6162, email vrsmith@bsf.net


West Feliciana Tour of Homes


The tenth annual Friends of the West Feliciana Library Tour of Homes will be held Sunday, December 3, 2006 between 12 noon and 5 p.m. during Christmas in the Country. Four homes will be on tour: one in Beauchamp Estates off Audubon Lane, one in Plantation Oaks off Highway 61 near River Bend Nuclear Plant, and two in The Bluffs Resort and County Club.


Tickets for the tour are $15 per person and may be purchased in advance and on the day of the tour at the West Feliciana Parish Library, 11865 Ferdinand Street, in St. Francisville. All proceeds from the tour are used for library projects. For more information, call the library at 225/635-3364.



Lisa and Tony Horn’s traditional southern home in Beauchamp Estates features interior brick walls and massive wooden beams in the kitchen. The living area of the house has 12 foot ceilings and looks out over the pool and lake. The house was built by the owners in 2003.






Nine Oaks, the home of Camille and Scott Thibodeaux in Plantation Oaks, sits on 2.5 acres nestled among nine old live oak trees, overlooking a small pond on the rear of the property. The French country style, six bedroom home has over 4,000 square feet plus a studio over the garage and features an eclectic mix of old and new construction details. The home was completed in 2006.





Virginia and Peyton Crawford’s 2-story European design home in The Bluffs overlooks the 9th hole of the golf course and has a spectacular view of the unique split fairway. The home is fronted with columns and is accented by a bowed ironwork baluster and copper awning.





Jackie and Mike Creed’s home on the 15th hole of The Bluffs golf course overlooks a creek that meanders along the edge of the beautifully landscaped yard. The exterior of the traditional home is old St. Louis brick and natural stucco. The traditional style is carried into the interior of the house with a brick arch in the foyer and wood and brick floors.



Heritage in the Hills

'HERITAGE IN THE HILLS' In Historic St. Francisville, Louisiana
by Anne Butler



As temperatures moderate and fall frosts the falling leaves with brilliant color, it's the perfect time for a road trip, and that's just what is offered by the first annual "Louisiana Main to Main, A Cultural Road Show" the whole month of November. Hosted by designated Main Street Communities across the state, the event is an opportunity for each little town to highlight its uniqueness. The program also gives visitors the chance to travel through some of the most picturesque sections of the state and enjoy special coordinated events and activities in each area. There will be food and music festivals, antiques fairs, art and crafts shows, living history demonstrations, performances, exhibits, car shows, bike tours, hayrides, parades, agricultural shows, museum days, historic house tours, game-day tailgating, and miles-long trade days as each community shows off its special creative and natural assets for the enjoyment of the whole family.


Designed to promote the revitalization of small-town historic commercial districts, Louisiana Main Street is a program of the State Office of Historic Preservation in the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. Important all the time, the program is particularly essential in post-hurricane economic development in the little Louisiana communities adversely impacted by last year's storms. Louisiana's Main Street communities include Springhill, Minden, Ruston, Bastrop, Columbia, Winnsboro, Natchitoches, Opelousas, St. Francisville, New Roads, Clinton, Bogalusa, Hammond, Ponchatoula, Denham Springs, Eunice, Crowley, Abbeville, St. Martinville, Plaquemine, New Iberia, Franklin, Morgan City and Houma. As different as these small towns are one from the other in many ways, they are nevertheless united by their common goals of combining historic and cultural preservation with present-day economic viability, and they love to show off the results of their hard work and successful programs.


The lovely little Mississippi River town of St. Francisville is calling its Main To Main program "Heritage in the Hills" and has planned a weekend full of events and exhibits highlighting the rich diversity of the heritage and culture of this scenic unspoiled region in the Tunica Hills. From archaeological finds and antebellum homesteading skills to contemporary musical performances and art exhibits, the wide variety of offerings mirrors the diverse influences that shaped the history of this part of plantation country. On Friday, November 3, a reception at the Historical Society Museum on Ferdinand St. from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. features an exhibit of archaeological findings unearthed during the construction of a new courthouse annex in historic downtown St. Francisville. There will also be musical entertainment by Root 61 at Magnolia Café.
Saturday, November 4, centrally located oak-shaded Parker Memorial Park showcases the works of a wide variety of regional artists and craftspersons at Art in the Park from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., as well as live music in the bandstand by the Backyard Blues 11am-1pm and Fugitive Poets from 2 to 4 p.m. Throughout the day the Historical Society Museum will continue its exhibit of historical archaeologic artifacts. The wonderfully eclectic little shops of St. Francisville offer spectacular holiday shopping specials throughout the day on Saturday as well. Each shop is unique, filled with everything from antiques and collectibles to clothing and decorative pieces for home and garden; visitors should not miss a single one along Commerce, Ferdinand and Royal Streets. The Friends of the Library are hosting a Book Sale at the Masonic Hall on Prosperity & Ferdinand Sts.


St. Francisville throughout the 19th century was the commercial center for Louisiana's rich English plantation country, and a number of the outlying antebellum homes join the downtown Main Street section in celebrating the heritage of the region. Saturday from 9 to 4, Rosedown State Historic Site showcases the practical plantation arts of the antebellum era, with demonstrations of leatherworking, calligraphy, spinning, basketry, down-hearth cooking in the outside kitchen and the use of the carpenter's shaving horse. There will also be an antebellum dance class conducted under the magnificent oak alley leading to this splendid 1830's Greek Revival structure surrounded by 28 acres of formal gardens.
On Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Audubon State Historic Site joins Rosedown in demonstrating old-fashioned skills by presenting a typical 19th-century day at the plantation, with costumed park rangers making candles and soap, cooking on the open hearth, and explaining the use of black powder weaponry during the Civil War. Center of this historic site is the three-story West Indies-style Oakley House where artist-naturalist John James Audubon tutored the young daughter of the family and painted a number of his famous bird studies in 1821.
"Heritage in the Hills" T-Shirt

Another real highlight of Saturday's activities is called "Music at the Mansions." The St. Francisville area has been blessed with a large number of extant antebellum plantation homes. Four of the most historic restored mansions host live performances of indigenous 19th-century music, as well as tours through rooms beautifully furnished with fine antiques; tickets should be purchased at West Feliciana Historical Society Museum and Visitor Center on Ferdinand St. At Butler Greenwood Plantation, dating from the 1790's and still occupied by descendants of the original family, the exuberant New Magnolia Baptist Church Choir performs under the live oaks from 10 a.m. to noon. The Cottage Plantation, also dating from the 1790's with its unmatched collection of surviving original outbuildings, features the amazing Gospel Wonders from noon to 2 p.m. Greenwood Plantation, magnificent Greek Revival columned home that burned and was lovingly rebuilt, will have Bill Caldwell -Music of the Old South from 2 to 4 p.m. and at Rosedown State Historic Site the popular vintage dancers whirl through waltzes and quadrilles in authentic antebellum costumes to the accompaniment of period music.
Saturday afternoon from 1 to 4 p.m. , Birdman Books and Coffee House in downtown St. Francisville hosts an opening reception for artist Paul Schnexnayder, followed by a live musical performance by Karuna's Spoon beginning at 7 p.m. From 8pm. Que Pasa Mexican restaurant overlooking the Mississippi River has music by the New Original House Band. Beginning at 8 p.m., the popular band Run Jane Run performs at Cypress Grill. Many of the activities and demonstrations are free of charge; the ticket purchased for "Music at the Mansions" covers the other musical events.
Sunday-November 5 starts with the Friends of the Library Book Sale from 11am-2pm at the Masonic Hall on Prosperity and Ferdinand Sts.
Information on Heritage in the Hills is available by telephoning Laurie Walsh, St. Francisville's dynamic and dedicated Main Street Director, at 225-635-3873 or 225-635-4224; for information on other Main Street community programs this same weekend, contact Louisiana Main to Main Coordinator Leon Steele at 225-342-8160. Information on St. Francisville and West Feliciana Parish; http://www.stfrancisville.us/, http://www.stfrancisville.net/, or http://www.stfrancisvilleovernight.com/; or telephone (225) 635-4224 or 635-3873.
High resolution photos for media use, email Patrick Walsh pat@bluegoosemedia.com or BlueGooseMedia.com

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Small-Town Mayor Makes a Big Impact

SMALL-TOWN MAYOR MAKES A BIG IMPACT
In Historic St. Francisville, Louisiana

by Anne Butler






Tourism in the South was embraced rather reluctantly in the thirties as the means to salvation for decaying historic properties that, lovely as they were, had become well-nigh impossible for impoverished families to maintain. It started in Natchez, where gracious town hostesses confronted the worst-case scenario when a national garden club arrived to admire the ancient camellias just after they’d all been killed in an unexpected freeze, and so these resillient ladies instead donned hoop shirts and antebellum gowns, flung open the doors to the wealth of glorious Greek Revival private homes with which that city had been blessed, and were rewarded with such enthusiasm that a whole new industry was born.

Before long, Natchez’ neighbors to the south in the Feliciana Parishes of Louisiana took their own tentative steps toward sharing with the world their history and at the same time turning bottomless pits requiring endless repairs into self-supporting entities. In St. Francisville, the slim spinster Bowman sisters of Rosedown Plantation--Miss Nina, Miss Bella and Miss Sarah--had struggled a lifetime to keep up the 1830’s columned home and the 28 acres of overgrown formal gardens surrounding it. In the thirties, still without electricity or running water, they allowed a few outside visitors in to revel at the fine furnishings and priceless objets d’art amidst the peeling paint and falling plaster. If visitors asked, the sisters would permit them to purchase a few postcards, but only if they asked. Poverty in these old houses was pressing, but properly genteel.

When Dr. and Mrs. Lewis restored the immense French Gothic chateau called Afton Villa just up the road from Rosedown, with an oak allee just as impressive, they too put the emphasis on gracious southern hospitality. Everything about Afton Villa was extravagant, from the intricate wood carvings to the stained glass windows, from Dresden china doorknobs to marble and plaster work of the highest quality, with towers and turrets, galleries and balconies and cathedral windows. For such an extravaganza, the welcome had to be just as extravagant.

William J. D'Aquilla, third from right, being sworn in as<br />Mayor Pro Temp, 1972.

This was tourism with a touch of tastefulness that began roadside right at the entrance to Afton Villa, where Uncle John White, formally outfitted in top hat and tails, saluted each and every car that passed along Highway 61 with a deep bow, removing his top hat with a flourish, a fitting welcome back to the days of antebellum splendor. His wife Aunt Shug made pralines for the tourists, and Uncle John was a much-loved fixture for regular travellers on Highway 61, which fortunately for him in the thirties and forties was not quite so heavily trafficked. When he was struck and killed by a car in 1946, his replacement did his best to fill his top hat and tails with similar elan.

Now, some 75 years later, the St. Francisville area has finally found another high-impact host who welcomes visitors with just as much enthusiasm, and that is longtime Mayor William J. D’Aquilla. His office door is always open to visitors, and he goes to great pains to make sure they appreciate all the area has to offer and don’t miss a thing. In this area of great 19th-century cotton plantations, the mayor’s cotton patch is measured in feet rather than acres, but in addition to overseeing finances and infrastructure, he insists upon maintaining a few growing plants behind Town Hall so that visitors can see samples of the area’s most important early cash crop.

Jovial Billy D’Aquilla was elected to the St. Francisville City Council in 1972 and served 12 years, 8 of them as Mayor Pro Temp. In 1984 he ran for mayor and was elected; in the two decades since then, he’s been returned to office every four years without opposition. Why? Because Billy D’Aquilla absolutely loves his town.



St. Francisville sits high atop a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River and was actually begun as a burial ground, the Capuchin friars from French Pointe Coupee Parish crossing the river to inter their dead on lands safe from the floodwaters. By 1807 the town of St. Francisville was chartered, its name taken from the patron saint of the monks and its development plotted along a narrow loessial finger ridge restricting development to a single main street and short side street, so that it was called “the town two miles long and two yards wide.” In the rolling hills of the surrounding countryside, immense plantations were established to grow cotton, and St. Francisville served as the commercial and cultural center supplying their needs, the countryfolk piling into town on Saturdays by the wagonload to stock up on goods and merchandise not produced on the farms.

The town is filled with significant 19th-century structures and is listed in its entirety on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the Historic District of St. Francisville manages to walk a fine line, maintaining its historic character hand-in-hand with present-day economic viability, thanks to sensitive preservation regulations and an enthusiastic Main Street Program overseen by the mayor to provide facelift grants, guidance and encouragement. This downtown area is very much alive, in fact the center of life in the community, with a pleasing variety of quaint little shops and popular restaurants occupying some historic structures, and others serving as homes for lively young families who enjoy strolling along the brick sidewalks and greeting neighbors catching the breeze on raised galleries dripping with Victorian trim.

Grace Episcopal Cemetery


No wonder Mayor Billy D’Aquilla absolutely loves his job. It has given him the opportunity to balance preservation with progress in a sensitive way, effecting necessary modern improvements while appreciating and enhancing the best of the past. He has presided over progressive improvements like a new 500,000-gallon water tower, new fire trucks and sewage system, ball fields, and enhanced tourism promotion for the entire area with special downtown family-fun events and funding for advertising. In doing so, he has won the respect of his peers and been elected to a number of prestigious positions in the state municipal association and other professional oarganizations.

He’s most proud of the downtown development plan, to be implemented in stages, that created a lovely oak-shaded park with bandstand gazebo in the center of downtown, public restrooms and bricked sidewalks, and will culminate in a riverwalk to capitalize on a wasted resource, the town’s riverside entrance. With his infectious enthusiasm he has managed to forge some community coalitions hitherto considered impossible, getting various factions to agree to work toward common goals for the good of the community. No wonder he is the genial spokesman most often called upon to tout town activities on the early morning television shows, even the drive to Baton Rouge in the dark not dampening his enthusiasm.

Lovely oak-shaded park with bandstand gazebo.

And besides all that, as daylight breaks on pilgrimage mornings Mayor Billy D’Aquilla is just as likely to be out on the town tractor manicuring the grass before visitors arrive for the spring historic home tour, and when parades like the fun ones at Christmas in the Country or The Day The War Stopped are over he’s right out there with the town workcrew picking up the trash so that his town can put its best face forward for the next visitors, and the next, and the next. Did we mention Mayor D’Aquilla just loves his job?

Not that it’s hard to promote the St. Francisville area, for besides the picturesque little 19th-century rivertown, the surrounding area is filled with superb tourism opportunities. Located on US Highway 61 on the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge, LA, and Natchez, MS, the area is a year-round tourist destination, with six historic plantations--Rosedown and Audubon State Historic Sites, Butler Greenwood, the Myrtles, the Cottage and Greenwood--open for daily tours, Catalpa Plantation open by reservation and Afton Villa Gardens open seasonally. Eclectic shops fill restored 19th-century structures throughout historic downtown and the surrounding area, and there is a nice variety of small restaurants, several remarkably upscale. Some of the state's best Bed and Breakfasts offer overnight accommodations ranging from golf clubs and lakeside resorts to historic townhouses and country plantations; a modern motel has facilities to accommodate busloads. The scenic unspoiled Tunica Hills region surrounding St. Francisville offers excellent biking, hiking, fishing, birding, horseback riding and other recreational activities. For online coverage of tourist facilities, attractions and events in the St. Francisville area, www.StFrancisville.us, www.StFrancisville.net, or www.StFrancisvilleOvernight.com; or telephone (225) 635-4224 or 635-3873.



High resolution photos for media use, email Patrick Walsh pat@bluegoosemedia.com or BlueGooseMedia.com

Monday, June 12, 2006

Town Hall goes Wi-Fi

St. Francisville Town Hall is the latest wireless hot spot. Mayor Billy D'Aquilla says wireless internet users should be able to get access within about 200 feet of Town Hall.

The Birdman Coffee & Books also provides wireless internet as does the St. Francisville Inn Bed & Breakfast.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Summer Water Fun

Bayou Sara

The Waterway



Bayou Sara under the hill of St. Francisville

Present day use of Bayou Sara consist mainly of a few commercial and game fishermen, photographers, birdwatchers and boating enthusiasts. Unlike the days of past where Bayou Sara at one time supported the second busiest port on the lower Mississippi only to New Orleans; Bayou Sara today trickles along it banks past only a few homes, farms and a couple business establishments. No longer the stories this bayou has to tell of horsetraders, civil war adventurers, prostitution galore and flooding. As once used
as safe haven from the sometimes torrent and unpredictable Mississippi River, it may be days before a boat sighting on Bayou Sara today can be made. But this is good, no!


Bayou Sara in the Swamp

Yes, Bayou Sara is probably the least noticeable attraction St. Francisville exhibits but to the photographer, birdwatcher or naturist it is one of the most important. The quiet serenity of slowly paddling upon a lazy alligator taking the sun in kind, can not be matched. Bayou Sara is exactly the way it should be, untouched, untampered and until now, un-noted. With that thought in mind, I will leave with only a few
reflections on Bayou Sara the Waterway today.


St. Francisville's prettiest non-attraction.

Bayou Sara flows from the Mississippi State Line in the general area of Lake Rosemound. Fed by small creeks, field runoff and natural springs; Bayou Sara transverses through shallow pools gravel beds, rock and sand bottoms and shores. Once reaching the lower Bayou Sara the waterway widens into the Tunica Swamp with a deeper central channel.


Small crafts can navigate the bayou & creek following a small rain.  Going after large thunderstroms and prolong rains are extremely dangerous.

Unpretictablility is the main reason Bayou Sara is so underutilized as a major attraction. At times during the year there is barely water to thirst a cow, while during the spring runoff into May the Bayou and Mississippi River will flood the basin below the St. Francisville ridge. Best time to canoe the upper Bayou Creek is after a good rain, but caution must be alerted as this can be extremely dangerous. The numerous fallen trees make navigation impossible and deadly in a rapidly moving stream. This can not be
alerted enough, please beware to this danger.

Near the mouth of Bayou Sara at the Mississippi River.

The lower Bayou Sara is ideal for canoeing from the Mississippi River to as far up as water permitting. Side trips into the swamp or hidden creek feeds make exploring wildlife, birding and photography a real treat.
Hiking along the creek is possible along the upper portion of the creek, but remember to respect private property and watch for poisonous snakes and quick sands.


Green monster over Bayou Sara - lower section.

Fishing from the shoreline or boat is best along the lower Bayou Sara at creek inlets and the mouth along the River. Caution when entering the Mississippi River, be experienced this river can be dangerous.

Hidden lost canal off Bayou Sara.

Best bet; take a small craft; kayak, canoe, pirogue or flat boat up the mouth of Bayou Sara and enjoy the peacefulness of the entire wildlife bayou scene to yourself and friend.


 


1996-2006 Feliciana Guide Post.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

St. Francisville Transitory Theatre

Open auditions will be held on Saturday, May 27 at 6:00 p.m. at The Old Presbyterian Church for this summer's production of Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians." No experience is necessary and all ages are welcome. Come prepared with a 60-90 second contemporary monologue (or readings will be provided) and be prepared to show off any talents and to work with other actors.

St. Francisville Transitory Theatre will produce "Ten Little Indians" from June 23 - 27 at Old Market Hall. Curtain is at 7:30 p.m. An original composition will be produced on August 4 and 5 at The Glynn's.

For more information, visit www.sftheatre.net or email sftheatre@gmail.com.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Smith goes to Spain.


During a tour of Spain, Doug, Virginia and Teri Smith of St. Francisville, had lunch with Antonia Lara in her home in Salinas, Malaga Province. They gave her a St. Francisville back pack full of souvenirs from St. Francisville and Louisiana. The Smiths were on a trip planned by Grand Circle that included 2 meals in private homes. Anne and Max King from St. Francisville traveled with the Smiths, and also were at the meal with Sra. Lara.

Friday, May 19, 2006

New Bridge to Connect St. Francisville to New Roads

Groundbreaking ceremonies were held last week for the new John James Audubon Mississippi River Bridge. The future bridge will connect I-49 to I-55 by way of
the Zachary Taylor Parkway. Completion is expected in the year 2010.














Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Thompson Creek Unique Treasure





Beautiful bluff on Thompson Creek

Thompson Creek flows from the Mississippi State Line down through the Feliciana's into the Mississippi River. It is one of only two tributaries in Louisiana which actually flows into the Mississippi River from the east shore, the other being Bayou Sara. Although only a few feet wide and inches deep in places, Thompson Creek is the east-west dividing line between East & West Feliciana Parishes (parishes - are Louisiana's counties).




Taking a break on Upper Thompson Creek

The Creek has all the beauty of Tunica Falls area, although actual falls are not as prolific. Along the creek you will find an abundance of wildlife using the creek as their main water source and with the wide variety plant life, rock structure and light infusions makes Thompson Creek a favorite summit for photographers. Capturing
that one moment on film of a whitetail doe enticing her yearling to the creek's edge for water while the sun glistens off the ripples made by the shallow water rushing through the gravel bed. Add a 30 foot white bluff topped with beechwood or moss laden oaks as a back-drop and you have Thompson Creek - the nature photo studio.




Plenty of boulders along your path with calm waters on this day.

Boating on Thompson Creek is a bit tricky as during normal weather and with the inclined slope the creek bed there's not enough water to travel the creek without many short portages. This can be very tiring as areas of the creek bottom can sometimes be very soft sand and gravel, making walking without a boat difficult. DO NOT attempt to travel the creek unless there was a good bit of prior rain.

Then the other extreme,paddle the creek after a day or two of torrent rain. You will find standing waves and some extremely difficult maneuvers. But like Bayou Sara the creek can become extremely dangerous with fallen trees and all caution should be exercised. Trees and debris tend to buildup under bridges where deep washouts
also exist, so try avoiding these areas during these times. Be prepared,
equipped, and have some experience and your paddle adventure down Thompson Creek
can be most enjoyable.



Old rock bottom - this rippling caprock is polished smooth on Thompson Creek

Fishing along Thompson Creek is found more productive in the Lower Section and into the Mississippi River. Here the waters of the Mississippi River will actually backflow into the creek at times during the year. There is a lot of silt buildup from the river so be cautious for sand bars. Remember the remoteness of this area, so be prepared in case of any emergencies.

Hiking Thompson Creek can be a great time and strenuous to "boot". Not only will you enjoy this remote creek with all it's God given beauty but a workout you Will receive. The drop off and pick-ups are far apart, but you can opt to leave and return to the same spot - controlling your distances. Walking/climbing across boulders, wading shallows, crossing a tree bridge and walking the bright white sand beaches make traveling an adversity of wills. Oh, yes the quick sands. Walking comfortably along on firm sand only to step into the unnoticeable soft gravel and sand down to your knee, thigh or even hip. After some laughter and struggle you are once again on your way with a keener eye for your surroundings and an appreciation for life's twist.




As the sun goes down along the Thompson Creek

Birdwatching is extremely fruitful all along Thompson Creek. The Lower Sections support much wetlands but a shallow draft boat will probably be needed as the area is extremely remote. Highway and backroad bridges are the easiest locations for viewing. Short walks up and down the creeks will totally isolate you from road noise within minutes.