Houma, Louisiana, and a drive through the Bayous

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Before heading north into the hills of Arkansas, I wanted to get a taste of the bayous of southern Louisiana.  A bayou, I quickly learned, is a slow-moving body of water, that’s somewhere in between a creek and a river — and the city of Houma, Louisiana has more of them than anyone can count.

To be honest, I didn’t find many reasons to stop and take pictures in Houma.  The parts of town I saw were a little rough around the edges.  Fortunately, my dash-mounted time-lapse camera was rolling throughout the drive through town:

I did stop for photos of one particularly interesting-looking place…

… the Jolly Inn Cajun Cafe.  Then, I made a turn towards…

… the Houma Intracoastal Waterway, just so I could say I had driven underneath the Intracoastal.

After turning around and heading through the tunnel a second time, I got back on Louisiana Route 182, which I would follow for the next few hours.  Out of Houma, Route 182 follows alongside Bayou Black.  There isn’t much to see on this part of the road, and I didn’t stop…

… until I crossed this old bridge near the town of Gibson.  At one time, it must have served as part of US 90.  Now, the federal highway is just a short distance away (although unseen from Route 182).

Morgan City-Berwick

Morgan City is the next big town, with two big bridges that cross the Atchafalaya River.  The older one, in the foreground, is Route 182; behind it is US 90.  I was actually standing in the town of Berwick (on the west side of the river) when I took this picture.

Be sure to drive under the bridges and check out the Southwest Reef Lighthouse.  It was built in 1858, went inactive in 1916, and was relocated here from its original spot on Atchafalaya Bay in 1987.  You can’t climb up into it, but you can admire it from the ground.

Just a few miles before Morgan City, Route 182 left Bayou Black behind.  From Berwick, all the way to New Iberia, 182 follows alongside Bayou Teche.  You can choose to follow 182 (which meanders through this area) or US 90 (a more direct route) for the next few miles, but be sure to return to Route 182 after crossing the next big bridge (at Calumet, although I’m not certain if there’s a sign), so you can head towards…

Centerville

Centerville goes by in the blink of an eye, unless you stop to admire the quaint little Centerville Presbyterian Church.  After passing the church, you’ll go through one stoplight…

… and pass a handful of homes (admittedly, some are nicer than this one).

Just before arriving in Garden City, you’ll pass by Frances Plantation, which dates back to 1810.  A sign at the side of the road informs that the plantation is now a private residence.

Garden City

I found one place to stop in tiny Garden City.  This old general store must date back at least 100 years.  A few of the items for sale inside must be nearly that old, too–but for the most part, it’s filled with a wide variety of junk.

Franklin

In the 1800’s, Franklin was made rich with the money from nearby sugar plantations.  The town still shows off the wealth of its past, with plenty of historic homes and mansions lined up along Main Street.  Once you get into town, those homes are replaced by old storefronts, with a grassy median and lampposts running throughout.

A couple of civil-war era statues stand in front of this government building, the only truly ugly thing in town.

Across the street, the Teche Theatre now serves as a performing arts center.  It dates back to 1940.

The Church of the Assumption stands at the north end of downtown.  It’s been a part of the community since 1852, although many features of the building (stained glass, marble altars inside) weren’t added until the early to mid-20th century.

And of course, there’s a bayou nearby.  Bayou Teche is just a block or two away from downtown.

Keep heading north on Route 182.

Jeanerette

As you arrive in the small town of Jeanerette, Louisiana, you’ll drive right by one of the town’s most important businesses.  Moresi’s Foundry has been in operation since 1890, making everything from the grinders that crush the local sugar cane crop to the gears inside the local steamboats.

Also along the side of Route 182 in Jeanerette, the Hewes House has been nicely preserved, thanks to a local attorney and Jeanerette native, who started raising money to preserve it in 2002.  Hewes House was built in 1897, and was home to Harry B. Hewes, a local lumber company owner and descendant of one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.  The house gained a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

New Iberia

New Iberia proved to be an interesting little town, starting with the larger-than-life spark plug outside Guidry’s Ignition and Marine.

The Teche Motel has a sign that’s quickly becoming historic.  Too bad the neon is gone.

About a block north of Main Street, it’s easy to spot the rusting remains of the old Charles Boldt Paper Mill, thanks to the plant’s crumbling smokestack.  The old chimney is clearly abandoned, and I didn’t see anyone else around, but I swear I saw smoke coming out of the top of the stack.

The smokestack is obviously falling apart near the top.  Judging by this historic sketch of the plant, the stack is only about 2/3 of its original height, and used to say “Chas. Boldt” at the top.

Only a shell of the old mill (circa 1920) remains.

Heading on into downtown, St. Peter’s is a beautiful catholic church, dating back to the late 1830’s.

New Iberia has a nice downtown district, that’s worth a few minutes of exploration on foot.  I parked in the lot next to the Evangeline Theater, which is now known as the Sliman Center for the Performing Arts.

The Evangeline Theater was donated to the city of New Iberia by the Sliman family in 1994.  It re-opened as a performing arts center in 1998. 

New Iberia’s downtown is filled with blooming trees and flowers, making it one of the nicest towns I had visited on my drive through the bayous.

As if the name Sliman wasn’t odd enough, it seems many of the downtown businesses carry some unusual names.  Here’s Wormser’s…

… Creim’s…

… and Bowab’s.

Bayou Teche is a block away from the Evangeline and the rest of downtown. Of course, by now, I was all too familiar with this creek, since Route 182 had run alongside it for miles.

Even though New Iberia is inland, I still spotted signs (literally!) that the locals are wary of hurricanes.  Gustav and Ike both caused problems during the 2008 storm season, bringing flooding to the low-lying areas around town.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s a time-lapse dash-cam video of the drive from Berwick to New Iberia:

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