Part of what has made the Louisiana Coast so special and fascinating is its people – strong folks who have weathered countless storms and emerged better for it. But there’s something in Louisiana that’s even sturdier than the people … hundreds of live oak trees.
It took the vision and dedication of one clever resident to figure out a way to share the oaks’ stories. Thibodaux William “Bill” Guion launched the Lafourche Live Oak Tour, a driving tour designed to help visitors and locals alike explore a fascinating new tourism route focused on these magnificent trees. All made possible thanks to a grant issued by Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou Tourism.
The tour is a project more than 30 years in the making. It all began when Guion became interested in photography. One of his early instructors advised him to find a subject he loved and photograph it over and over again. Guion selected the oak trees that had surrounded him since his childhood in Thibodaux, the parish seat of Lafourche Parish.
Though Guion’s career took him far and wide, he came back to visit the parish after Hurricane Katrina and was so affected by the loss of trees that had been a part of the landscape for generations that he decided to start documenting each of them and the history behind them. Eventually he returned to settle in Lafourche Parish and found himself a home with a nice live oak tree in the yard.
“If these trees could talk, they’d have incredible stories to share,” said Guion. “They’ve provided shade and shelter for generations, marked property lines, established meeting points and lined the paths to the region’s lavish plantation homes. I wanted to find a way to interpret these stories so the trees could educate visitors and be appreciated not only for their natural beauty, but also for their role as witnesses to our history.”
More than 400 trees in Lafourche Parish have been registered with the Live Oak Society, with about a quarter of those being more than a century old. As Guion worked to develop a tour that maps out 40 locations, he was even able to include a few trees that are 400 to 500 years old. The grant from the tourism office enabled him to develop a website, signs posted at each location, and a brochure.
The trees are numbered from north to south – “up and down the Bayou,” as locals like to give directions – but visitors can start their tour anywhere along the route. Stop #1 is at the E.D. White House historic site just outside of Thibodaux, a National Historic Landmark that served as home to Edward Douglas White, Louisiana’s governor from 1835 to 1839, and his son, Edward Douglass White, who was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1894 and served as its Chief Justice from 1910 to 1921. The oldest tree at this site, called appropriately “the E.D. White Oak,” has stood for well over 400 years. It’s not just ancient, but also enormous; it measures more than 25 feet in girth.
WHEN YOU GO:
Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou is located 45 minutes from New Orleans, in the coastal destination of Lafourche Parish. Visitors seeking authentic Cajun experiences are embraced by Southern hospitality as they sample the outdoor adventures, culture, food, music and festivals up and down Bayou Lafourche. From fishing in the Gulf of Mexico to enjoying a big bowl of gumbo, from spotting an alligator on a swamp tour to learning how to blend cocktails with locally made rum, Cajun runs deep on the Bayou.
Featured image: Blanchard Oak near St. Charles Borromeo Church.
Source: Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou Tourism