Myths and Legends Byway
Like a good yarn? You’ll love Louisiana’s Myths and Legends Byway, a drive based on true stories, tall tales and a gunslinger named Leather Britches Smith. Beginning in southwestern Louisiana at the Texas state line, the byway travels through mostly flat land originally settled by the Atakapa and Coushatta Indians. Later, the area’s abundant forests led to the creation of sawmill towns. Today, visitors will find pine forests, blackberry farms, rodeos and friendly people ready to share their stories. Here’s a sample of what you will find:
Burr Ferry to DeRidder
Start your drive in the small community of Burr Ferry, which lies on the Texas/Louisiana border. Here you can see remnants of breastworks built during the Civil War. The byway heads south on Highway 111, passing the Clear Creek Wildlife Management Area, then turns east at US 190. A good stopping point is DeRidder, a charming town with a lot of history. The Beauregard Parish Museum, housed in a former railroad depot, is filled with local artifacts; it is especially noted for its more than 3,000 dolls. Legend has it that a little girl named Lois Loftin had no dolls growing up, so she began accumulating them as an adult and left her collection to the museum. Other historic buildings include the First National Bank in DeRidder, with its 1930s lobby. If you’re into fast horses and fancy roping, check out the action at the Beauregard Parish Civic Center-Covered Arena, which hosts rodeos year round.
DeRidder to Oakdale
Along this stretch of the byway, look for blackberry farms and azaleas, dogwoods and mayhaws. Stop in Sugartown, the first permanent settlement in southwestern Louisiana, and take the town cemetery’s one-mile forest walk. A bit farther is Elizabeth, once a busy sawmill town. The town’s city hall is housed in a historic hospital building. Near Elizabeth, visit the West Bank Wildlife Management Area*, where you can stretch your legs and do some bird-watching. Take note of the orchards in this area, where lemons, peaches, blueberries, pecans, and muscadines are grown. The byway ends in Oakdale, where the recently opened Leatherwood Museum, housed in a circa 1880s building, tells the story of the region’s timber industry. Cap your drive with a visit to the Hardwood Mill Restaurant, known for its home-cooked meals.
If you continue down Highway 111 from Burr Ferry (rather than heading east at US 190), you will reach the town of Merryville. Here you will see the grave of Leather Britches Smith, a famed outlaw gunned down in 1912. Sites to see include the Merryville Museum and Burks Log Cabin. The cabin was raised in 1883 and moved to Merryville, where it sits in front of the museum. Just north of Merryville is the Clear Creek Wildlife Management Area. In winter months, you’ll see northern wildlife arriving in search of warmer climes. Wild turkeys are plentiful in Clear Creek’s rolling hills.
* To visit any of Louisiana’s Wildlife Management Areas, you must have either a valid Louisiana fishing or hunting license OR a Wild Louisiana Stamp. You can buy these online at www.wlf.louisiana.gov or by calling 1-888-765-2602 or at any vendor that sells hunting and fishing licenses, such as Bass Pro Shop, Walmart and Academy Sports. If you are buying a license or stamp for short-term use, you will be given an authorization number; that, plus a valid I.D., allows you to visit the WMA and hunt or fish. Prices vary for hunting and fishing licenses. The Wild Louisiana Stamps costs $2 for a one-day stamp.