Celebrating Louisiana Culture
The Allen Parish Tourist Commission
For those seeking a taste of the great outdoors, Allen Parish is beyond compare. For the hunters and anglers, Dry Creek Ranch provides 1500 acres of pheasant, quail, and red stag deer hunting, as well as a 30 acre stocked lake for fishing bass. Anyone looking for an extended stay will find lodging, as the ranch offers a number of cabins and rooms in the main lodge for an overnight trip, and the Ouiska Chitto Creek offers up some big fish as well.
The Ouiska Chitto, known to many as the Whiskey Chitto, is one of the state’s most beautiful waterways, a seventy-mile meandering creek offering scenic views of white quartz sandbars and beaches, passing through the towering pines and hardwoods. Canoe trips provide visitors with a chance to enjoy Louisiana’s beautiful natural landscape. With an average of 300 sunny days per year, Allen Parish is the perfect place to experience the outdoors.
“One of the attractions we have here is the Ouiska Chitto Creek. People come here to experience nature at its best… the white sandy beaches, the slow current moving you effortlessly down the creek. Then add in the sounds of the local birds, and you have the recipe for relaxation to the max! If camping is your thing, speak to the outfitters and you can rent a canoe for an overnight stay on the sandbars,” says Adagria Haddock, Director of the Allen Parish Tourist Commission.
Visitors to Allen Parish quickly learn to appreciate Cajun culture and cuisine. The area is brimming with restaurants serving authentic Cajun cooking and boasts many sites dedicated to the history and culture of the region. Among the many wonderful Cajun staples that tourists learn to love while visiting are gumbo, boudin, chicken sausage, smoked ponce, smoked rabbit, and venison sausage. The region is known for its food and one of the staples in Allen Parish is the fresh crawfish that is served in a variety of ways. “There’s this place called the Crawfish Shack now that has invented a crawfish po’boy and people come from far and wide to eat that,” says Adagria.
Rice farming is a mainstay of Louisiana agriculture and is a major industry in Allen Parish, with approximately 20,000 acres of crops planted every year, with 15,672 acres being rice – of which 8,000 acres are used to farm crawfish. The rice crops grow underwater and in many of these submerged rice fields, there are long lines of crawfish traps laid out in between. “They feed on the biomass of stubble left over from the rice crop and because our crawfish is rice-fed, it enhances the taste,” says Adagria. During crawfish season – usually in early spring – they become the primary crop for many of the area’s farmers. Louisiana is the largest producer of crawfish, accounting for nearly 90 percent of the nation’s total. They are a key crop for Allen Parish farmers and an important tradition in Cajun cuisine.
For those interested in the history of the region, the Louisiana Myths and Legends Byway passes right through Allen Parish, visiting many historical sites, and relaying many of the wonderful legends known to the locals, such as the legend of the Allen Parish money trees. It may be a myth, but many believe that somewhere deep in the swamps of the Calcasieu River, a treasure is hidden. According to the legend, during the civil war two men buried a $75,000 fortune in gold and silver somewhere in that swamp. It is said that the two men carved markings in the trees to lead them to the treasure, but they never made it back. Many have searched the area for those marked trees, but so far no one has found the gold. This is one of many wonderful stories known to the people of Allen Parish and told along the Myths and Legends Byway.
Presently, the Allen Parish Tourist Commission is working with Travel South USA to attract more bus tours to the byway and it is also hoping to entice visitors with a new film that is being released by the Allen Parish Tourist Commission. This video promotes not only the Myths and Legends Byway, but also covers other areas of the Parish, including the exhibits in the Allen Parish Welcome Center, the Elizabeth Haunted Hospital Museum, and the Leatherwood Museum.
The Leatherwood Museum is another stop along the byway in Allen Parish. The beautiful repurposed hospital was built in 1888 and contains many fascinating historical exhibits related to agriculture, the military, and the Native American Coushatta tribe. These exhibits illustrate the way life was in the region prior to the turn of the century.
The Coushatta tribe moved to the region in the late 1880s and has 5,000 acres in Allen Parish and more than 1,000 in surrounding parishes used for housing, rice and crawfish farming, government, finance and more, and has approximately 800 residents located in Allen Parish. The tribe has an annual pow-wow, one of the largest powwow events in North America and located at the Coushatta Casino Resort in Kinder, Louisiana. During the event, Coushatta dancers in full traditional regalia dance to the accompaniment of tribal drums and singers. This annual event offers a view of the Coushatta tribe’s culture and heritage. The Coushatta Casino Resort is the largest land-based casino in the state and it employs approximately 3,000 residents from Allen and surrounding parishes. The Coushatta Casino Resort is now the second largest private employer in the state of Louisiana.
The Allen Parish Welcome Center, located in Kinder, is being transformed into a Cultural Center that will feature a swamp exhibit, a music museum highlighting the zydeco and swamp pop music of the local musicians, a military exhibit along with the existing Wall of Honor, and a heritage exhibit created by the Coushatta tribe. The music museum will contain an authentic jukebox and after a local recording studio mixes the music of local musicians, the tracks will be sent to a company in California to be mastered and lacquered as 45 vinyl records that can be played in the museum’s jukebox. Depending on the amount of time required to get the music recorded, the exhibit should be open to the public by July or August of this year.
The community in the rural area of Allen Parish is diverse yet close-knit and residents are gladly willing to help each other out in times of need. There is an atmosphere of inclusion and teamwork in Southern Louisiana. “We’re just down-home people and there’s such a mixture of heritage and cultures here from the Creole to the Coushatta – you can use the word cornucopia – it’s just so many different cultures here and everybody strives to get along and be the best people that we can be,” says Adagria. The peaceful tranquility combined with the friendliness of small-town charm is a great alternative to the urban city lifestyle for many individuals who prefer a slower pace to life. “You can sit on your front porch and talk to the neighbor and laugh and have a good time; it’s just a simple lifestyle and it is one that as I get older, I cherish more.”
One challenge of the parish’s rural location is that some of the larger industrial companies are more attracted to areas that already have all the required resources available; however, Allen Parish is hoping to spread the word about its abundant opportunities and attract new companies to the region. The community will work to find the necessary resources for potential new businesses and work with them to reach long-term success.
Allen Parish is planning for growth in both population and tourism as more and more individuals look to get away from the bustle of the urban cities and begin to discover the qualities of southern Louisiana. “In southwest Louisiana, there’s this big boom going on with a lot of plants enlarging and new businesses coming in,” says Adagria. “We’re getting the spillover from there with more people coming in, new housing being built, and new residential areas popping up in the towns; it’s going to be a steady grow.”