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Travel Treasures departments

Mar/Apr 2014 Issue

Civil War will echo during living history events at Jackson, La., park

Muskets, cannons, warring armies, and gunships will be on display this March through a series of interpretive events culminating in the annual Siege of Port Hudson Civil War Re-enactment near Jackson, La.

Port Hudson State Historic Site preserves the story of the Siege of Port Hudson, one of the longest sieges of the Civil War. For the 151st anniversary of the siege, the site has planned a number of events during March leading up to a re-enactment March 29–30.

The surrender of Port Hudson, the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River, was one of the events that doomed the Confederacy. Today a National Historic Landmark, the 643-acre site encompasses a battlefield, museum, and a boardwalk over the breastworks in the Fort Desperate area, so named to reflect the dire situation the Confederates faced.

The sound of cannons, rifles, muskets, and pistols will fill the air during the “Fire Power” weapons demonstration on March 1 at the site. The program will be held every half hour from 1–3 p.m.

Ghost Ships of the River, a guided nighttime walk on March 14, will commemorate Adm. David Farragut’s Naval attack on the Confederate river batteries at Port Hudson (March 14–15, 1863). A park ranger will share ghost stories from the battlefield, and there will be a special artillery firing and a pyrotechnic demonstration with the model gunboat fleet at the site’s pond.

The annual Siege of Port Hudson Re-enactment will be held March 29–30, bringing to life the 48-day siege. In addition to watching the battles, visitors can meet soldiers, cooks, and merchants in the campsites. Other activities will include model gunboat battles, period dance classes, and more.

Activities will take place 9 a.m–5 p.m. both days. Admission is $4 per person and free for seniors and children 12 and under. The site is at 236 U.S. Highway 61 near Jackson.

For details, call (225) 654-3775 or (888) 677-3400, or visit

Battle re-enactments and historical encampments will be part of the activities. Louisiana Office of Tourism photos


Arkansas’s Mississippi River State Park brims with fun

It took nearly 50 years for the Mississippi River State Park to take shape in east-central Arkansas, but visitors to the park will discover that some things are worth the wait.

First conceived in 1966, the idea for a park was scuttled due to a lack of funds. But momentum grew in the 1970s, and then Arkansas State Parks decided in 1999 to partner with the U.S. Forest Service for the park to be developed in St. Francis National Forest.

Several separate sites in the forest will make up the park, including Bear Creek Lake Recreation Area, Hornor Neck Lake Access, the confluence of the St. Francis and Mississippi rivers, and Storm Creek Lake Recreation Area. Phased in over several years, the park eventually will encompass 536 acres.

One of the highlights of the project so far is the visitor center, which opened last year. The center’s interactive exhibits connect visitors to the natural, cultural, and historical resources of the Mississippi River, the St. Francis National Forest, and Crowley’s Ridge.

Also completed were improvements at the Beech Point Campground at Bear Creek Lake. Situated on a wooded peninsula, this forer Forest Service camp now has full-service campsites, a nature trail, two new docks, and more.

The visitor center, open from 8 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, is at 2955 Arkansas Highway 44 near Marianna.

Call (870) 295-4040 for more details, or visit

The park features fishing, kayaking, a swim beach, camping, trails, and more. Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism photo


Festival brings traditions of Scotland to Arkansas

From the stirring strains of bagpipes to the sight of the most attractive knees, the Arkansas Scottish Festival honors Celtic culture each spring on the Lyon College campus in Batesville.

In its 35th year, the celebration began as a way to recall the Scottish roots of Lyon College, which was founded in 1872 by the Presbyterian Church. This year’s festival, April 11–13, will once again offer a glimpse of Scotland through traditional music, food, and dancing.

The festival kicks off on Friday night with a Celtic concert at Brown Chapel on the campus. Music plays a big part of the rest of the festival, as well, with solo bagpipe competitions, pipe and drum concerts, and a demonstration by the Lyon College Pipe Band. There will also be a parade of clans and bands.

Other events include Highland dancing, a British car show, sheepdog demonstrations, community Quintathalon, children’s activities, and the bonniest knees contest. A Ceilidh, or traditional Scottish gathering with music and dancing, will be held on Saturday night.

The festival is organized by the college’s Scottish Heritage Program, which teaches and preserves Scottish arts and culture. The college is at 2300 Highland Road in Batesville in north-central Arkansas.

Call James Bell at (870) 307-7473 for details, or visit



Mississippi’s Old Capitol celebrating 175 years

Mississippi’s Old Capitol has withstood the ravages of war and nature over the past 175 years, standing today as Jackson’s oldest building and a masterpiece of 19th-century Greek Revival architecture.

Originally completed in 1839, the Old Capitol served as the statehouse for 64 years, witnessing passage of key legislation, the adoption of two constitutions, and the Civil War. When the Legislature relocated to a new building in 1903, the Old Capitol served as office space and later as a history museum.

Severely damaged by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, the Old Capitol–a National Historic Landmark–underwent a $14.2 million restoration inside and out. The mission of the renovated Old Capitol Museum is to interpret the history of the building and those who worked there.

The Old Capitol will celebrate its 175th birthday throughout the year. As part of that celebration, it will host a free lecture series on Wednesdays at noon in March to spotlight that rich history.

The Old Capitol (100 S. State St.) is open 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1–5 p.m. Sunday.

Call (601) 576-6920 for more information or click on

Completed in 1839, the Old Capitol has been completely restored. Mississippi Department of Archives and History photo


Louisiana history shines in Shreveport

Truly an architectural jewel reflective of the New Deal era, the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum in Shreveport, La., celebrates its 75th anniversary this year and remains as vibrant today as when it first opened its doors in 1939.

A project of the Public Works program during the Great Depression, the museum’s “ultra modern” circular style, rich adornments in marble and granite, and the monumental fresco on the front portico make this building particularly noteworthy. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it was the first public museum in the state honored as a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate.

On display are exhibits that offer insight into the history and culture of Louisiana, including 22 world-renowned dioramas representing “Louisiana in Miniature.” The highly detailed dioramas feature miniature figures performing common activities in Louisiana during the Depression.

The museum also houses one of the most extensive collections of Louisiana Native American artifacts from prehistoric time to the present. The new Native American Gallery displays a Caddo culture log boat excavated from the Red River that is 1,000 years old and an impressive 30 feet in length.

Located at 3015 Greenwood Road, the museum is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Admission is free.

For more information, call (318) 632 -2020 or visit

The intricate dioramas depict common activities in Louisiana in the 1930s. Louisiana Office of Tourism photo

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