Stop for the Alligators

I had a random day available so after checking my (Southwest region) National Parks list, I decided a day trip to Louisiana was in order. There’s a few National Park spots near New Orleans but there’s one random spot in the middle of the state in Natchitoches. My friend Jenna and I couldn’t tell much from the website, but we were headed to the Cane River Creole National Park.

Our drive started early since we both had plans in the evening, but it was nice after a little break to be back on the open road again.

We only encountered one “problem” on the way – lovebugs. Apparently it was mating season for these bugs and as soon as we crossed into Louisiana our car was covered. It was fields and fields of them. Disgusting, but to be honest, we literally couldn’t keep the windows clean for how many we kept running into. We eventually made it with one gas stop to throughly wash the windshield.

When we eventually found the Park (the visitor center in town looked like it’d been closed for months) we found ourselves at the Oakland Plantation, with only a handful of older people. I’ve definitely noticed that not too many young people are on the same National Park journey I’ve embarked on, unless they’ve been dragged there by their parents. Which is crazy! There’s so many great things to see and history available near everyone.

We hit up the main center to grab the stamp for our passport, realizing there was not even a ranger in sight. I don’t think they were used to too many visitors so we explored the little “museum” on our own. They had a little antiquated shop set up that looked authentic and had some of the things an old-timey general store would sell. They also talked about the plantation being a cotton producer.

Next we hit up the main house which was two stories, very old, and locked. We explored the best we could (peaking int the windows) and nearly had a heart attack when we discovered an old man was in a rocking chair on the porch. He fit in so well I thought they’d put a mannequin there. He was waiting on his wife who was currently on the tour, which we’d just barely missed.

We’d seen what we wanted so we headed home making a point to follow the Cane River on our way out. It seemed pretty but was mostly inaccessible due to all the homes along the river’s edge.

While a bit interesting, the day wasn’t super fun so I knew we needed something to make the drive worth it. Jenna and I agreed that if we saw anything that seemed even remotely worthwhile on the way we would stop. And just our luck, right before hitting Texas we spotted a “Gator Park & Exotic Zoo”.

Of course we stopped! Who could pass that up – especially when we discovered it was a petting zoo! There was a whole pond full of alligators, swimming in the murky waters and lounging along the sand pit. We stared at them for a good half hour, I kid you not. Then it was off to hold a baby gator! It was so cute!

I bought some feed and headed deeper in the park, spotting all different kinds of deer immediately. We passed goats and sheep. Things I’d never seen up close like emus and ostriches. Some of them were pretty intense with their big glassy eyes, but they all approached when they realized I had the food.

My mission was to pet as many animals as I could, which was at some points extremely terrifying. Large birds are basically dinosaurs, okay? And anything bigger than me deserves caution. The lemurs were hilarious though.

I have to say besides the alligators, my favorite part was making friends with a baby kangaroo. I had never seen a kangaroo, let alone a baby, let alone it jumping to me! It was so soft and adorable, I decided it was going to be my next pet.

And then of course I started to feel a bit bad for all the animals because they should probably be free, right? Then I looked up their mission which was largely educational and responsible for research and promotion of understanding of all animals, no matter if they’re exotic or not. So I can definitely get behind that!

I can also get behind impromptu stops based on billboards offering adventure!

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