Bella Vida by Letty

Road Trip to Louisiana’s Romantic Antebellum Past on River Road

Plantation on River Road Louisiana

You have not visited Louisiana until you’ve driven down River Road to experience Louisiana’s romanticized antebellum past.  It’s where rich elite Europeans settled, building incredible mansions guarded by giant live oak trees draped in moss surrounded by acres of fields.  Every need and desire easily fulfilled.  Any request brought to the Mississippi banks.  Steamboats arrived often with lavish furnishings, materials and visitors.  I imagined Louisiana’s countryside today would be similar to Bon Temps, the fictionalized town where HBO’s True Blood series takes place.  As a matter of fact I told my sister I would be visiting Bill Compton’s McMansion this particular Sunday morning and as a good sister she told me to be careful.  It was everything I imagined and more.

Plantation on River Road Louisiana

During my trip to New Orleans I heard many tales of extravagantly rich families owning plantations and acres upon acres of land and industry in the countryside and the extreme poverty of its slaves and laborers.  These tales peeked my curiosity so I hit up Louisiana’s back roads to do some exploring to experience it for myself.

It was much closer than I thought it would be.  After only twenty minutes I was already approaching the massive cable stayed bridge allowing me to cross the Mississippi River.  Leaving behind the highway and it’s view of a swampy area where I could see the tops of tall trees covered in moss standing in sappy brown waters.  Hale Boggs Bridge is quite an impressive feat of engineering due to its gargantuous size.  I think everything in Louisiana is done with the intention of being bigger and better.  There was a soft drizzle as I reached the Mississippi’s West bank.  Large ships, barges and cargo carriers floated by with all the patience in the world leaving behind small ripples that would crash into the shore.  The contrast of industry and bright green vegetation once you reach the other side is beautiful.

Plantation on River Road Louisiana

 

At the stop light there was a lovely perfectly manicured small town to my right, looking up large brown metal and steel cables of the super structured bridge and then I made a left turn onto River Road.  The first thing I saw was new money, a community of large brick mansions with long winding gated driveways.  Continuing past a very ugly industrious zone I got an unexpected surprise, miles and miles of nothing but sugar cane.  The seemingly endless fields of sugar cane reminded me of my summer visits as a young girl to Puerto Rico.  I would have to pass miles and miles of sugar cane fields on small back roads to get to my grandparents home.

Sblue shack

The view is green for miles on a road that twists and curves along the river.  Unfortunately you cannot see the waters of the Mississippi River because the banks have been built up high in order to prevent local flooding.  Sprinkled in between farm lands were the old plantations I had heard about.  Some were grand in beautifully maintained condition while others in disrepair or completely abandoned.  It is very expensive to maintain large old historical homes which in addition often have several more structures on the property.  Small rural communities would appear after miles of fields.  Some more modern than others but most look quite poor.

shack off river road in Louisiana

There is nowhere to stop on winding River Road unless you are visiting a plantation.  I was warned not to pull over on this back road because its heavily used by big freight trucks and visibility is poor due to its many curves.  I recommend a visit to one of the many plantations.  I visited Oak Alley Plantation which was so nice it will be featured in its own post.

River Road is a great way to see Louisiana’s past reflected in its present just a beautiful short drive away from New Orleans.  I turned around after about an hour but River Road continues winding right alongside the Mississippi

River Road Louisiana

Travel Tips

Bring plenty of water and snacks.  There are no restaurants or shops including gas stations so gas up beforehand.

Visit a plantation to learn the incredible history of the area.

Don’t stop off River Road.  There is one spot I found where there is designated roadside parking just past Oak Alley Plantation.  You will be able to see a tiny part of the Mississippi River there.

mansion old river road louisiana

Have you driven down River Road?

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“Time is like the Mississippi River. It only flows in one direction. You can never go back.”   Suzanne Woods Fisher

Do I change like a river, widening and deepening, eddying back on myself sometimes, bursting my banks sometimes when there’s too much water, too much life in me, and sometimes dried up from lack of rain? Aidan Chambers

The Tigris, the Euphrates, the Mississippi, the Amazon, the Yangtze. The world’s great rivers. And every one of them finds its way to the ocean.”  Alison McGhee

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