Natchitoches, Louisiana


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Natchitoches (population about 18,000) is the county seat of Natchitoches Parish (county) and home to Northwestern State University. It is located in the north-central part of the state, about 70 miles south of Shreveport. The city is known as the “City of Lights,” for its spectacular Festival of Lights each Christmas season. It is also famous for the Hollywood filming done there – “The Horse Soldiers” in the 1950s, “Steel Magnolias” in 1988, and “Man in The Moon” in 1990. http://www.natchitoches.com/

Natchitoches (pronounced Nack-a-tish) is the original French colony and oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Territory. It can be traced to 1714, when Lieutenant Louis Juchereau de St. Denis was sent up the Mississippi and into the Red River by the governor to establish a trading post, and to build Fort St. Jean Batiste. This trading post gradually grew into the town of Natchitoches, named for the Native Americans who lived in a nearby village. Located at the foot of a 100-mile log jam, this settlement was the furthest point boats could travel and it became an important transport city where overland goods and water borne goods were transferred. It also became a gateway for settlers bound for Texas. The Red River changed its course away from the city in the 1830s and eventually was dammed up to create the present day Cane River Lake — a very slow moving body of water that is 32 miles long.

Thirty-three blocks of the downtown area are designated as a National Historic Landmark. It contains more than 50 centuries-old buildings, a reconstruction of Fort St. Jean Batiste, the old American Cemetery, and the Courthouse Museum. There is outstanding dining, and plenty of shopping. The merchant buildings and homes overlooking what was then the Red River — and today, Cane River Lake, — are laced with iron grillwork galleries, reminiscent of early times when Natchitoches’ riverfront was an important shipping point.

Northwestern State University adds an important dimension to the city. In addition to educational opportunities, it adds a great deal with its arts and sports programs. Its venues, talent and the resourcefulness of its people, help it attract and support many amenities.

Natchitoches is regarded as a very friendly place to live and the cost of living is well below the national average. It has a rich mixture of cultures and a very interesting history. It has been written about in national publications on several occasions as a good retirement location.

Arts & Culture

Natchitoches-Northwestern Symphony Orchestra has been performing for nearly 40 years. Currently it offers four classical concerts annually, with performances held in the Magale Recital Hall at Northwestern State University. It joins with other groups to offer a seasonal performance of music, dance, and drama on the first Friday night in December. It also performs special children’s concerts and a pops concert each fall. http://www.allbusiness.com/humanities-social-science/visual-performing-arts/12757359-1.html

The Natchitoches/NSU Folklife Festival is an annual event held each July in the Prather Coliseum on the campus of NSU. The craft component of the festival includes 40 artists who present authentic traditional crafts. Each year the festival focuses on a new aspect of Louisiana culture. The event is a four-time award winner as among the “Top Twenty Events in the Southeast,” selected by the Southeast Tourism Society. http://www.nsula.edu/folklife/

The Christmas Festival began in 1920 with outdoor lights to celebrate the Christmas season. As it grew, the “lighting of the town” became an event that drew many residents, and soon it would become a “Festival of Lights.” Today it is parades with elaborate floats, marching bands, musical performances, a road race, contests, fireworks, food booths, and more. http://www.christmasfestival.com/

Fort St. Jean Baptiste is a replica of the military outpost built by the French at Natchitoches, a few hundred yards from the original fort site. http://www.crt.state.la.us/crt/parks/fortstj/ftstjean.htm

Mansfield State Historic Site, 35 miles north of Natchitoches, is the site of the last major Confederate victory of the Civil War. Daily tours are available and there is a museum with many Civil War artifacts. http://www.crt.state.la.us/crt/parks/mansfiel/Mansfld.htm

Los Adaes State Historic Site was once the capital of Texas and scene of cooperation among the French, Spanish and Native Americans. It dates to the early 1700s when a Franciscan missionary from New Spain (now Mexico), Father Francisco Hidalgo, urged the French governor of Louisiana to establish a post near east Texas. It is an area rich in archaeological finds and one of the state’s most interesting historic sites. http://www.crt.state.la.us/crt/parks/rebel/rebel.htm

Rebel State Historic Site gets its identity as the location of an unknown Confederate Soldier’s grave. Today it is also the site of the Louisiana Country Music Museum. What began as a simple memorial service each year has became a celebration of music at the annual Memorial Service for the Unknown Confederate Soldier.

There is now a regular schedule of musical events throughout the year, with Bluegrass, country, gospel and folk concerts. Non-profit groups are also invited to hold events at the amphitheater. The Annual Louisiana State Fiddlers Championship and Annual Statewide Harmonica Contest are events that attract large audiences, and the jam sessions that follow bring a great deal of enjoyment. Local performers as well as The Oak Ridge Boys, Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, Slim Whitman and others have also performed there. http://www.crt.state.la.us/crt/parks/rebel/rebel.htm

Recreation

The geographical landscape of the parish is quite varied, with lakes, streams, bayous, and rolling hills with thick pine forests. Most of the lakes and streams drain into the Red River which cuts diagonally through the center of the parish and then forms its southeastern boundary. The Northeast area contains a series of large lakes – Black Lake, Clear Lake and Saline Lake. The Southwest is a maze of lazy bayous and streams with forests on the higher ground. There is great fishing, hunting, canoeing, horseback riding, hiking, and biking in the area.

Kisatchie National Forest includes 604,000 acres and stretches into seven central and northern parishes – including Natchitoches. It offers numerous campgrounds, hunting camps, hiking, biking, horse trails, and boat launch locations. http://www.southernregion.fs.fed.us/kisatchie/

Natchitoches Parish has 10 public parks, two golf courses, three community swimming pools, 12 ball fields, a skating rink, a bowling alley, a four-screen movie theater, a family fun center which features miniature golf, go-carts, batting cages and indoor game area, and many tennis courts. Boating, tubing and fishing on Cane River Lake, Saline Lake, Black Lake, Clear Lake, Chaplin’s Lake and Sibley Lake are also major activities for visitors and residents. One country club is available in the parish, and the recreation center at Northwestern State University, featuring golf, tennis and swimming, is available to local residents.

Northwestern State University enhances the cultural aspects of Natchitoches by offering and supporting a symphony, ballet, dinner theater, plays, music recitals and other forms of entertainment. Athletic activities at the university include football, baseball, softball, basketball, track and field, tennis, volleyball, soccer, rodeoing, and rowing.

Campers appreciate the area’s wildlife, and canoeing and swimming in one of the parish’s clear freshwater rivers or slow-moving bayous. Trapping, fishing and hunting are available in the many rivers, streams, bayous and lakes, such as Cane River Lake, Sibley Lake and Black Lake. There are 129,174 acres of Kisatchie National Forest contained in Natchitoches and Winn Parishes.

There are two golf courses nearby. Northeastern Hills, which is a public nine-hole course, and Natchitoches Country Club, which has a private nine-hole hole course. http://thegolfcourses.net/golfcourses/LA/Natchitoches.htm

Education

Natchitoches is home to Northwestern State University, which is a part of the University of Louisiana System. It has more than 6,500 full-time students on campus with total enrollment of over 10,000, which includes students in Alexandria, Leesville, and Shreveport. http://www.nsula.edu/

Louisiana Technical College, Natchitoches Campus, offers a wide variety of vocational training programs. http://www.theltc.net/natchitoches/

Senior Programs

Northwestern State University offers a number of opportunities for seniors, including credit courses such as international relations for a $15 fee. It also offers non-credit classes in e-mail, word processing and Internet basics for seniors. http://www.nsula.edu/

The Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) helps people age 55 and older find service opportunities in their home community. http://www.seniorcorps.gov/about/programs/rsvp.asp

Hospitals

Natchitoches Parish Hospital is a full-service acute care hospital with 24-hour emergency services. It is a 78-bed facility and also houses a 112-bed skilled nursing home. http://www.natchitocheshospital.org/

Airports

Shreveport Regional Airport (70 miles), designated a small hub, is served by the major commercial carriers. http://www.ci.shreveport.la.us/dept/airport/

Alexandria International Airport, with 7,100-foot and 9,300-foot runways, offers service from a number of commuter airlines. http://www.airnav.com/airport/AEX

Weather

Average temperatures for January are a high of 56 and low of 36 degrees. In July the averages are 93 and 73 degrees. http://www.wunderground.com/US/LA/Natchitoches.html

Newspaper

The Natchitoches Times – http://www.natchitochestimes.com/

Property Taxes

Natchitoches Parish Tax Commission – http://www.natchitochesassessor.org/

State Taxes

http://www.rev.state.la.us/

Chamber of Commerce

http://www.natchitocheschamber.com/profile.asp

Area Agency on Aging

http://goea.louisiana.gov/area_agency_on_aging.html

Distances

Shreveport – 76 miles
Alexandria – 59 miles
Baton Rouge – 87 miles

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