In our travels along I-49 over the years, we would notice a Louisiana welcome center North of Alexandria. The question being, why in the middle of the state would there be a welcome center? Never stopping, our question went unanswered. We were in Alexandria, LA for a family reunion and stayed in a RV Park not far from the center, it was time to have our question answered.
The welcome center is typical of all other Louisiana Welcome Centers, free Community Coffee, free travel information, maps, etc. What is different? This welcome center is also Kisatchie National Forest Information Headquarters. Forces were joined and a center was built.
On the grounds is a statue of a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) young man. It celebrates the contribution made to Louisiana, as well as the entire United States, by the CCC. The CCC helped establish the Kisatchie National Forest, the only national forest in Louisiana.
All kinds of info on the National Forest is available including maps, camping, and trail information for Kisatchie. If you’re into hiking, there are quite a few hikes from a few minutes to hiking for way longer than we were interested in tackling.
One of the more interesting aspects of the center is “The Statesman Tree”. It is a Louisiana Longleaf Pine that grew in the Kisatchie Hills for 248 years. The tree was only 16 years old when the Declaration of Independence was signed. Several years ago, it was struck by lightning. It was then cut and transported to the welcome center and stands in a place of honor.
On this visit we also found that Louisiana has a Quilt Trail and the center promotes it with a Louisiana Black Bear Quilt Block. Although the trail is Louisiana Quilt Trail Northshore which is far from Alexandria, it is nice to know a trail exist. In our travels we have viewed quilt trails, yet never knew Louisiana had one.
Information can be obtained on the Trails & Byways Northup Trail. Solomon Northup, who was kidnapped from his home in New York, spent twelve years as a slave in Rapides and Avoyelles Parishes. His freedom was regained in a courthouse in Marksville, LA. After returning to New York the story of his enslavement was written, Twelve Years a Slave, 1841-1853. The trail includes sites remembered by Northup.
This welcome center has much to offer. Yet, the question of why a welcome center in central Louisiana has yet to be answered. I’m sure there’s a story in there somewhere about a legislator voting for a bill if someone else voted for another bill and so appropriations was added someplace else for a Welcome Center in the middle of the state. Ahh, the spoils of compromise in a representative democracy. You gotta love it…