For the first time in over a month hubby and I had a Saturday where we could do some hiking and picture taking. It was a wonderful release.
A place that’s been on our”gotta visit” list is the Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters in Lacombe, just 15 minutes from our house.
Upon entering the site, you’re drawn to the landscaping. The attention to detail is apparent and it reaches back over 200 years.
This site is rich in history and beauty. The August heat appeared to be too much to handle, but it really wasn’t at this site because of the abundance of trees. We arrived at 10 AM and were done by noon.
Here is a brief rundown of the history of this paradise in Lacombe, taken from one of the info boards:
Likely a portion of French or Spanish Land Grant during the Colonial Era, the earliest known owner was Louis Reggio prior to 1820. The property changed hands a number of times later that century, with the Cousin and Ducre names common today in the Lacombe area among the owners during this period into the 20th century.
The land was acquired in 1935 by Judge Wayne Borah (the youngest Federal Judge in the country at the time), who built a residence.
This structure is a Chimney Swift Tower
He and his family did extensive landscaping, laying out the foundation which is known today as the “Bayou Gardens” of Lacombe.
In 1946 the home and gardens were acquired by former (crooked) Louisiana Governor Richard Leche, who settled into the lush surroundings with his family and continued the cultivation of the Bayou Gardens.
In 1956 the land was acquired by the Redemptorist religious order and in 1960 the Holy Redeemer Seminary opened. The seminary closed in 1980, but members of the order continued to live at the site, holding religious retreats. And apparently, a cemetery was established for the priests that stayed until the end of their lives.
The rear of the residence gives way to a great lawn that faces Bayou Lacombe
This site is loaded with walking trails, as shown in the map below
There are walking trails off to each side of the great lawn that are easy to maneuver and full of small surprises if you look for them
A trail that begins at the parking lot of the Refuge leads down to a grotto
which leads to a rudimentary brick staircase:
Made with local bricks
This same trail will also bring you to a lovely little area to sit and ponder the beauty of Bayou Lacombe
If you walk it a little while longer, it brings you to another pensive sight overlooking a pond.
The visitor center is huge and loaded with information and displays.
This little girl was killed by a car in Bayou Teche and her remains were saved and brought to the headquarters
The Headquarters represents the eight of Southeast Louisiana (SELA) Refuges:
Atchafalaya (prounounced A-Cha-FaH-lie-ya)
Bayou Sauvage (through which I traverse on my daily commute)
Bayou Teche (prounounced Tesh)
Big Branch Marsh (in our backyard)
Bogue Chitto (prounounced Boog gah Chitta)
Breton – close to my heart because it’s a bird refuge
Delta National Wildlife Refuge
Mandalay – only accessible by boat, near Houma, Louisiana.
A visit to the Bayou Lacombe Center is a win-win situation any time of the year. Besides all of the hiking trails, the kids would love the Visitors Center for the displays (lots of interactive stuff there too). The best part is that admission is FREE!! You can get to the Bayou Lacombe Center by taking exit 74 on I-12. Staffed by volunteers, the visitor center is open Thursdays-Saturdays from 9:00am to 4:00pm. Volunteers are needed to help run the visitor center. Please contact the volunteer coordinator at 985-882-2024.