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LOUISIANA MRT

At this point in time, the signed MRT crosses back and forth over the river a couple of times. Trip planners will want to consult the Mississippi sections of this web site as well, to put together a complete trip.

Download a LA MRT map. (561 KB pdf).

Download LA Bycicle Map Bundle.(4.3 MB pdf).

  • Proposed segments are being planned and have been assessed as generally rideable. Cyclists should use atlases and other sources to identify road routes.
  • Segments under development are marked in red and indicate dangerous cycling conditions. Bicyclists should proceed with extreme caution.

Resources & Links

New Orleans Area Maps

Segments

LA Segment 1—Greeneville MS to Lake Providence
You will leave Downtown Greenville on Broadway, which becomes Reed Road. Turn south on South Main, then west on Highway 454, which is also the Great River Road. This will take you to U. S. Highway 82, thence across the Highway 82 bridge into Arkansas. You will enjoy a short, scenic ride along Lake Chicot on Highway 278. Then you will turn south on Highway 65, which will take you into Lake Providence.


Doorway To Louisiana, Inc.
600 Lake Street
Lake Providence, LA 71254
(318) 559-5125

Sense of Place
Louisiana is a land of as many contrasts as you will find anywhere on the MRT. The route comes into the state across the bridges from Natchez, and immediately traverses a landscape nearly empty of human settlement. Vast acreages of farm and forest produce crops and are also vitally important habitat for the millions of migrating waterfowl that use the Mississippi Valley as their path through the continent.

This is definitely a landscape where control of water is of central importance. The Mississippi is here held back by enormous levees—some of which have cows grazing on them—that remind you of how big the river really is, even though it is just out of sight. Giant spillways—Morganza, Old River, and others—punctuate the landscape as silent indicators of what the land is like when in flood.

New Orleans, of course is New Orleans, sui generis like no other place in the world. But the landscape between Natchez and New Orleans is full of surprises and unexpected delights. There's the town of New Roads, looking more like a lake resort community than a river town (in large part because it is a resort community) along an abandoned channel of the Mississippi. There are miles of petrochemical plants, juxtaposed with farmers' cabins, country churches, and the above-ground cemeteries that tell you you're getting close to sea level. And of course, there are the plantations, those jewels of the antebellum landscape that are now often open to visitors, perhaps as bed-and-breakfast places along the aptly-named Great River Road.

LA Segment 2—Lake Providence to Vicksburg MS

This section, through Louisiana plantation country, is very similar to that north of Lake Providence. The highlight of this section is access to Poverty Point State Commemorative Area, a world-class archeological site that dates back to 1350 BC. (See LA Loop 1—Lake Providence to Poverty Point)

Doorway To Louisiana, Inc.
600 Lake Street
Lake Providence, LA 71254
(318) 559-5125

Sense of Place
This section, through Louisiana plantation country, is very similar to that north of Lake Providence. The highlight of this section is access to Poverty Point State Commemorative Area, a world-class archeological site that dates back to 1350 BC. (See LA Loop 1—Lake Providence to Poverty Point)

LA Loop 1—Lake Providence to Poverty Point

Lake Providence to Poverty Point

This section, through Louisiana plantation country, is very similar to that north of Lake Providence. The highlight of this section is access to Poverty Point State Commemorative Area, a world-class archeological site that dates back to 1350 BC.

Sense of Place
As you have already discovered, East Carroll Parish is not a highly urbanized part of Louisiana! Highway #134 cuts through rich, flat Louisiana farmland. The incredibly rich soil here, and throughout the Mississippi alluvial floodplain, was deposited at the end of the last Ice Age, when glacial melt-water poured through the valley. It carried with it huge loads of sediment that foot by foot, mile by mile was deposited on the banks and at the constantly extending mouth of the river. Forests evolved, a myriad variety of plants prospered, animals thrived, fish grew to huge size, and America's early settlers found this land to their liking. Around 1350 BC this land gave rise to a remarkable civilization known as Poverty Point culture.

Poverty Point
Poverty Point is the oldest earthworks of its size and the largest, most elaborate native construction anywhere in the western hemisphere. It was started fourteen centuries before the birth of Christ and at about the same time that Hammurabi was developing his law code for Babylon. Almost all Indians living north of Mexico at that time were migratory hunter-gatherers. Thus, how Poverty Point came into being is a happening shrouded in mystery.

When you arrive at Poverty Point you will see a great expanse of flat landscape traversed by a highway. Your immediate reaction on arriving at the site may be disappointment—and you may ask yourself, why did I come all this distance to see this? The problem is that the Poverty Point earthworks are so immense that to truly appreciate them, you must get an aerial view. Thus, from your terrestrial vantage point, you will have to use your powers of visualization, enhanced by tour of the site and a climb to the top of the principal mound. Consider your visit here a pilgrimage to a sanctuary; you are on hallowed ground where complex society in the United States probably awakened.

Poverty Point has a geometric layout in a C shape of six concentric ridges whose ends once terminated on a bluff overlooking a river and seasonal lake. On these ridges most archeologists agree that houses were probably constructed. In the middle is a huge plaza, and beyond the crest of the outer ridge is a huge mound, in the shape of a lofty, gigantic bird. What defies comprehension is the vision necessary to create so sophisticated a city plan, the mathematics and perhaps the astronomy necessary to lay it out on the ground, the massiveness of the engineering feat, and the quality of leadership to both make available and to inspire a work force to carry out the plan. Who were the magnificent leaders who made this possible? All that archeologists are able to conclude is that they were ancestors of the Creeks, Choctaws, Natchez and other Indian tribal peoples.

Poverty Point civilization was made up of the Poverty Point site and clusters of villages and camps. Some of these clusters were within 25 miles of the main site; others were hundreds of miles distant. The hallmark of Poverty Point culture was long-distance trade that ranged to points north of the Ohio River and south to the Gulf of Mexico. High quality rocks, unavailable in the lower Mississippi, were the major trade goods. These were probably obtained during gathering expeditions north. Shaped into finished or partly finished artifacts, they were then traded along the river system that connected the villages and camps. The pattern of trade remains un-deciphered, but it definitely involved Poverty Point as the most important trade center.

To learn about Poverty Point civilization, visit the small museum on location (open from 9 to 5, seven days a week). We suggest that you purchase archeologist Jon Gibson's fascinating booklet, Poverty Point, A Terminal Archaic Culture of the Lower Mississippi Valley (from which our writing borrows heavily). His sections on "Trade" and "Symbolic Objects, Ritual, and Religion" are especially helpful in appreciating the implements, jewelry, and symbolic and religious objects at the museum.

According to Dr. Gibson, the nature of archeology is to develop "a patchwork of facts, hypotheses, guesses, and speculations". Many interpretations can be drawn from the same materials. Nevertheless, Poverty Point helps us to begin to understand—to fulfill a responsibility to appreciate—the people who walked the great Mississippi valley before us. Much of American antiquity has been ploughed for cropping, leveled for highways, and obliterated by development. Much of the history that was once transferred from generation to generation through the oral tradition of native peoples was lost starting in the fifteenth century, when European viruses went on a killing spree in one of the world's greatest catastrophes. There are but two world-class sites left in the Mississippi valley—Cahokia Mounds in Illinois and Poverty Point. If you visit no other sites (and we suggest that you visit many of the other excellent sites) visit these two.

LA Segment 3—Natchez MS to New Roads

Natchez MS to New Roads
After crossing the Natchez Bridge, take an immediate left on Highway #131. You are starting here on a section of 88 miles without a place to stop for the night! The good news is that this part of the MRT is fairly flat with occasional trucks—except during harvest when the big trucks really roll. Highway #131 becomes #15, and you will immediately climb on top of the levee and thence be on top, on the side, at the foot of, or near the levee for a major part of this section. Watch for the left turn off of #15 onto #418 and successive other turns at Innis onto #1, at Batchelor onto #419, thence onto #472, back to #1, and into Morganza. After 4 miles, watch for the turn onto #420 along the levee; then turn south on #10 into New Roads.

Sense of Place
Points of interest on this section are the Old River Lock (about 50 miles from the Natchez bridge), which is open to visitors, and the huge Morganza floodway and spillway, which provides release for Mississippi River waters when flooding is imminent.

This is plantation country, with mile after mile of crops. At about 20 miles from the Natchez Bridge is Angelina Seed, an agribusiness complex that owns over 25,000 acres. At the main office near the road, ask Angelina staff if they can make time to give you some insight into the operation of these huge, multi-faceted enterprises. It will change your perspective on what you are seeing.

As you ride through this rich agricultural countryside dotted with an occasional building complex, it is timely to reflect on the huge contrast between this region—and the economic interests of this region—and what you would find in the north, northeast and along the Atlantic seaboard. Historically, in the early- to mid-nineteenth century, these fields provided the cotton that was loaded onto ships, that floated the Mississippi to New Orleans, that was transferred onto ocean-going vessels, and that sailed into eastern ports or across the Atlantic to feed the hungry American and British textile industries.

This region—and the many other regions of the South like it—traded agricultural crops for manufactured goods. During the early nineteenth century it was, understandably, of enormous interest to this region not to have tariffs on imported manufactured goods from Europe. Thus, when Congress passed the Tariff Act of 1824 through the newly combined voting strength of the legislators from the northeast, mid-Atlantic and Old Northwest, sectional feeling began to flame up in the South. With the Tariff Act of 1828 (known as the "tariff of abominations"!) disagreement broke into open flame. The seeds of the Civil War were planted.

LA Loop 2—New Roads to St. Francisville

New Roads to St. Francisville
This tour starts with a free ferry excursion across the Mississippi. The ferry runs from 4:30 AM to 11:45 PM between New Roads and St. Francisville. Since these towns are very popular with tourists, traffic can be heavy. Consider crossing the river in the early hours of the morning and returning at sunset. These are times of enchantment on the Mississippi!

Sense of Place
Louisiana is a land of as many contrasts as you will find anywhere on the MRT. The route comes into the state across the bridges from Natchez, and immediately traverses a landscape nearly empty of human settlement. Vast acreages of farm and forest produce crops and are also vitally important habitat for the millions of migrating waterfowl that use the Mississippi Valley as their path through the continent.

This is definitely a landscape where control of water is of central importance. The Mississippi is here held back by enormous levees—some of which have cows grazing on them—that remind you of how big the river really is, even though it is just out of sight. Giant spillways—Morganza, Old River, and others—punctuate the landscape as silent indicators of what the land is like when in flood.

New Orleans, of course is New Orleans, sui generis like no other place in the world. But the landscape between Natchez and New Orleans is full of surprises and unexpected delights. There's the town of New Roads, looking more like a lake resort community than a river town (in large part because it is a resort community) along an abandoned channel of the Mississippi. There are miles of petrochemical plants, juxtaposed with farmers' cabins, country churches, and the above-ground cemeteries that tell you you're getting close to sea level. And of course, there are the plantations, those jewels of the antebellum landscape that are now often open to visitors, perhaps as bed-and-breakfast places along the aptly-named Great River Road.

LA Segment 4—New Roads to Plaquemine

New Roads to Plaquemine
Highway #1 out of New Roads has a good road surface with wide, paved shoulders and considerable traffic. Highway #78, onto which you will turn just after Parlange Plantation, (watch for a cluster of huge live oaks that indicate its presence!) has a good road surface with no shoulders and light traffic. At the crossroads community of Valverda, take #977 to Maringouin. Look carefully here for #77 going south toward Rosedale. (It is easy to go the wrong direction!) Highway #77 from Rosedale to Grosse Tete is very windy. A significant portion of the road from Gross Tete to Indian Village has good surface. Directions become confused at Indian Village, where you will cross the drawbridge over Bayou Grosse Tete. Stay on #77 until you see the sign for #3066, a good road that will take you into the town of Plaquemine.


Sense of Place
This section, which takes you away from the Mississippi and along Bayou Grosse Tete, is a favorite of Louisiana cyclists. Lining Highway #77 are huge live oaks, with heavy, gnarled branches that embrace over the middle of the road. Magnificent trees grace even the humblest houses.

A highlight of this section, located near New Roads, is Parlange Plantation. We strongly suggest that you take a tour of the house (call 504-638-8410 to make an appointment). Built in 1750 by the French Marquis de Ternant, the house is a rambling French Colonial structure encircled by galleries, with an alley entrance of huge cedar trees. The plantation is a working farm that descendants of the original Marquis still own and operate. During the Civil War both Union and Confederate armies stayed at Parlange, and the family may have saved the house through the hospitality that it extended to Union officers.

The home today is filled with priceless antiques and an outstanding collection of portraits. John Singer Sargent's masterpiece, "Portrait of Madame X", that so scandalized Paris and Louisiana society, is the centerpiece of this collection. It is a painting of Marie Virginie de Ternant, a daughter of the family. Normally there are not many visitors at the house at one time, which helps to make a visit here memorable.

Historic Plaquemine, a quiet little town settled in 1775, nestles between the levee and Bayou Plaquemine. The bayou served as a distributary (as opposed to tributary) of the Mississippi and thus became a transport route for early settlement and commerce into the Louisiana interior. After the Civil War a levee was constructed across the mouth of the bayou. A lock took its place in 1909 and provided a 51-foot fresh-water lift, the highest at that time of any lock in the world. After half a century of service the lock was closed, and another levee was built. Highlights of your visit here will be the Memorial Lockhouse, Old City Hall and St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, all within walking distance of each other on Main Street. The Lockhouse, which serves as a museum and tourist information center, is an exceptionally striking building, with a glistening white brick exterior. The site includes a 40-foot-high lookout tower from which you can gaze long distances over the Mississippi. The church, embellished by a campanile, columned portico and sublime balastrino altar, is considered to be the purest example of Italian Romanesque architecture in the South.

LA Segment 5—Plaquemine to Donaldsonville

Plaqueville to Donaldsonville

This section is short and you will follow the River Road the whole distance between Plaquemine and Donaldsonville.

Sense of Place
The River Road winds along the foot of the levee in this section, and you will often see cattle grazing peacefully on the levee. You will also find various points of access to the top of the levee, from which you can gaze over the Mississippi. However, do not look for "Visitors Welcome" signs! One of the great charms of the River Road is that it is the "real thing"; it is not touristy, although a lot people travel here. Little "shot gun" houses keep company with private, old plantation homes. Little villages are more focused on the life of their residents than luring you to some spectacle. Less scenic are some big chemical refineries; however, they too blend into the sugar cane fields in a manner that does not seem overly intrusive. Besides, refineries are part of the economic life of Louisiana.

When you come to the little community of Point Pleasant, visit tiny Madonna Chapel. At 9 feet by 9 feet, locals say it is the smallest chapel in the world. From the chapel, you will cycle through Bayou Goula, established in 1699 and pass Tally Ho, a private mansion within a stand of live oaks. Just beyond Tally Ho, you will see one of the most magnificent plantations in the South—Nottoway.

Nottoway is one of the world's most beautiful buildings. Reminiscent of the French chateaux on the Loire River, the neo-Classical and Italianate mansion with 64 rooms is the largest plantation home in the South. Built in 1859 just before the Civil War by John Hampden Randolph for his family of 11 children, the house was primarily constructed of native cypress and featured amenities that were cutting-edge for their time, such as in-door plumbing and gas lighting. The grand white ballroom has lacy frieze work, crystal chandeliers, marble mantels and hand-painted porcelain doorknobs. Because the house is tall, it has a dramatic view of the river that you will see from the upstairs windows if you take a tour.

During the Civil War, Randolph took his children to Texas for safekeeping, and Mrs. Randolph stayed at the house. According to an oft-told tale, the house survived the war because a Union officer had been a guest there and ordered that it not be destroyed. A small cannonball remains lodged in an upstairs gallery wall to remind the visitor of the hardships endured during this difficult time.

LA Segment 6—Donaldsonville to Vacherie

Donaldsonville to Vacherie
Printable Directions
You will leave Donaldsonville on Highway 18, the River Road and continue along it.


Sense of Place
Louisiana is a land of as many contrasts as you will find anywhere on the MRT. The route comes into the state across the bridges from Natchez, and immediately traverses a landscape nearly empty of human settlement. Vast acreages of farm and forest produce crops and are also vitally important habitat for the millions of migrating waterfowl that use the Mississippi Valley as their path through the continent.

This is definitely a landscape where control of water is of central importance. The Mississippi is here held back by enormous levees—some of which have cows grazing on them—that remind you of how big the river really is, even though it is just out of sight. Giant spillways—Morganza, Old River, and others—punctuate the landscape as silent indicators of what the land is like when in flood.

New Orleans, of course is New Orleans, sui generis like no other place in the world. But the landscape between Natchez and New Orleans is full of surprises and unexpected delights. There's the town of New Roads, looking more like a lake resort community than a river town (in large part because it is a resort community) along an abandoned channel of the Mississippi. There are miles of petrochemical plants, juxtaposed with farmers' cabins, country churches, and the above-ground cemeteries that tell you you're getting close to sea level. And of course, there are the plantations, those jewels of the antebellum landscape that are now often open to visitors, perhaps as bed-and-breakfast places along the aptly-named Great River Road.

LA Segment 7—Vacherie to New Orleans

Vacherie to New Orleans
Printable Directions

You will leave Vacherie on Highway 18, the River Road. At Edgard you can take the ferry to Reserve on the east bank of the river and then south on HW44 to pick up the Levee Trail. You should ask when you get into the vicinity to determine the ferry's hours of operation. This will take you to Audubon Park in New Orleans. A riverboat plies the Mississippi from Audubon Park to the French Quarter.

Sense of Place
This segment of the MRT first takes you past Laura, a Creole Plantation, built in 1805. Painted in a mustard color with red roof and red trim, the house is one of the must-see places on the River Road. Here you will step into the fascinating world of the Creoles, with family artifacts original to the plantation. Surrounding the house are sugarcane fields, historic farm buildings and the slave quarters where the west-African folktales of "Compare Lapin", known in English as Br'er Rabbit, were first recorded. You can take a tour daily from 9:30 AM to 4:00 PM. Don't miss this experience!

At Edgard you will take the ferry to Reserve on the east bank. Before heading down river, take a left to San Francisco Plantation. Built in 1855 in a style that has come to be known as Steamboat Gothic, this romantic house will remind you of the steamboats that used to ply the waters of the Mississippi.

 

Take Note

Designation or identification of the Mississippi River Trail is not a guarantee that the route will be safe for all riders under all conditions. The Mississippi River Trail descriptions are intended at this point for use by experienced long-distance bicyclists. Users ride at their own risk, and understand that they will commonly be sharing the road with motorized vehicular traffic. No liability, expressed or implied, is assumed by Mississippi River Trail Inc. for any result occasioned by use of these descriptive documents.

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