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Hit the road
Colonial Trails byway includes historic towns of Natchitoches and Alexandria, plus 100 points along the way.

Published: Mar/Apr 2001

Louisiana is blooming with spring color. Why not take a scenic drive to enjoy nature’s palette of pastels? A new scenic byway, Colonial Trails, includes more than 100 historic sites and points of interest. It winds through central Louisiana, encompassing legendary corridors such as the Old Spanish Trail and El Camino/Old San Antonio Road.

An easy leg of the byway takes travelers from historic Natchitoches to Alexandria via Highway 71 state Route 8. Drive through scenic Kisatchie National Forest and view blooming trees. In Natchitoches, the oldest city in Louisiana, interesting old homes and plantations can be seen along the Cane River. Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Commemorative Area is a reconstruction of the 1732 French fort and trading post.

In the northern end of the parish, acres of wildflowers bloom around Briarwood, the cabin home of Caroline Dormon, who founded the forest. South of Natchitoches, visit beautiful Melrose Plantation, founded by Marie-Therese Coin-Coin, a freed slave. During the 1940s, primitive artist Clementine Hunter worked there.

Another plantation, Kent House in Alexandria, has tiny, formal gardens. Built between 1796-1800, the house mixes French and Spanish colonial architecture. Lloyd Hall is another interesting home open for tours. Guides recount lively tales about past owners and share a few ghost stories.

The Louisiana Office of Tourism has published a new brochure featuring its scenic byways. For a copy, contact the office at 1-800-926-0425, or visit on the Web.

For more information on visiting Natchitoches, contact the parish tourist commission at 1-800-259-1714. Information about Alexandria is available through the Alexandria/Pineville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, 1-800-742-7049.

– Deborah Reinhardt

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