bout the Area

 

St. Francisville is an historic and charming little town nestled in the beautiful Tunica Hills of West Feliciana Parish. Well-known for its abundance and variety of flora and fauna that inspired artist-naturalist, John James Audubon, who painted many of his "Birds of America" series while living in the area during the 1820's, the region was settled by English planters in the 1700's. Several of the original plantation and antebellum homes and gardens are still standing, restored and open to the public year round. There is alot to enjoy for the history and antiquity buff, as well as nature trails, biking and exceptional birdwatching right here at Shadetree.

Shadetree Inn is conveniently located at the edge of the Historic District within walking distance of quaint shops and excellent restaurants. You will see over 140 structures and pre-Civil War cottages in the Historic District that are on the National Register.

Situated on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, St. Francisville is one-half hour north of Baton Rouge, Louisiana's capitol, only two hours north of New Orleans, and one hour south of Natchez, Miss. A ride across the stunning Audubon Bridge over the Mississipi River takes you to the lovely French community, New Roads, boasting wonderful shopping, antiquing and restaurants.

In St Francisville, you'll find there is an abundance of activities to keep you entertained in the local area. From plantation tours to bird watching, nature trails and bike rides, there's a lot to enjoy.

Those with an interest in the history of the region will have a fantastic time exploring the old plantations and their gardens that were first built by settlers from across the Atlantic in 1700. Many of the original homes are still standing and after being restored are open to the public all year round. The West Feliciana Society Museum, located on 11757 Ferdinand Street is a great place to visit before you tour the plantation houses to get an overview of the history of the region. Here you will also be able to pick up a ‘Walk Through History’ brochure of the area's cultural and architectural highlights.

Rosedown Plantation:

Our major historical venue is Rosedown Plantation where guests are guided by locals in period dress through the beautifully restored home furnished with its original late 1700's period pieces. The grounds and gardens are spectacular.

Oakley House:

A highly recommended historical plantation house to visit is Oakley House, a West Indies plantation home featuring a museum, trails, herb gardens, slave quarters, a barn (complete with animals), and excellent guided tours. Oakley House is closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Imahara's Botanical Gardens:

Imahara's is just a quarter mile from the Historic District on Mahoney Road at the bottom of Catholic Hill right across the street from Shadetree. The gardens are only open to the public on Saturday and Sunday. However, when closed, they can still be viewed and appreciated by parking at the hilltop or in the entry and walking over to the fence. Nine ponds flow down the valley planted with 3,000 Azaleas and hundreds of various plant specimens.

Afton Villa Gardens:

The journey along the path that lines the entryway to Afton Villa Gardens with its breathtaking archway of live oak trees and azaleas for a mile and a half is enough of an introduction to prove that Afton Villa is a very special place. Unfortunately the main building was destroyed by a fire in 1963, but the gardens remain intact with tens of thousands of bulbs planted every year. It's open March through October.

Port Hudson State Historic Site:

Port Hudson historic site is just a 10 minute drive south of St. Francisville and is another great place for a day trip. The 899 acre State Commemorative Area marks one of the most important battlefields of the Civil War. It is designated as a National Historic Landmark by the Department of the Interior and is known as having the longest siege in American military history. Port Hudson is also famous for the key role that African-American troops played in the battle against the confederate states.

Cycling and Motorcycling in and around St.Francisville:

With the winding roads and picturesque, quiet roads, St. Francisville is a popular place for both road cyclists and mountain bikers. Brave mountain bikers are often found pushing their courage to the limit at the West Feliciana Parish Recreation and Sports Park. Among the routes is one of the most notorious in Louisiana, called simply ‘The Beast’. If you’re going to take on the challenge of this route you would be well advised to ensure you and your bike have the proper insurance before hurtling down the steep, rocky track. You would also be wise to have proper cover for your vehicle if you decide to take on one of the long and winding routes popular with motorcyclists and road cyclists too. If you aren’t prepared for the challenge the extremity of the conditions can get the better of you. However, there are also a number of gentler option for beginner riders.

Our favorite leisurely route is biking past Imahara's on Mahoney Road about a mile across the low-water bridge over Bayou Sara. Go left after the bridge and stay to the right (no left-hand turns) and you will make the "Solitude Loop" that comes back to the bridge (7-8 miles) through the beautiful West Feliciana countryside and the quaint community of Solitude.

If you're looking for great river views, just head down Shadetree's driveway, turn left and go further down the hill past the Caboose where the road ends at the Mississippi River.

 

For more information, see the recent article in the New York Times and visit Country Roads Magazine and www.stfrancisville.us .