Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site

Quick Facts

Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site

Louisiana

(318) 357-3101

Map Directions

Things To Do

   

Overview

Fort St. Jean Baptiste is a testament to the resourcefulness of French explorers who first settled the backcountry of Louisiana in the early 1700s. About a quarter of a century after LaSalle first traveled down the Mississippi River and claimed all of the lands it drained for France, a band of Natchitoches Indians guided a group of French soldiers up the Red River in search of trade outlets. Led by a French Canadian named Louis Juchereau de St. Denis, the French were on a mission to Mexico to establish trading ties. Nearly one hundred and forty leagues up the Red River, they encountered an impenetrable logjam that prevented further navigation. The French hastily built two crude huts, which grew to become Fort St. Jean Baptiste and the town of Natchitoches, the oldest permanent settlement in the entire Louisiana Purchase territory. By the time the United States acquired the territory in 1803, the fort was in ruins and was no longer of any use. Thus, the Americans built Fort Claiborne in Natchitoches to protect the western frontier.

Today, Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site is situated on the west bank of the Cane River a few hundred yards from the 1732 fort site. Built in 1979, this full-scale replica is based upon extensive archival research and Broutin's plans of a similar fort that was never built. The fort includes a trading warehouse, a powder magazine, a church, slave quarters, the commandant's house, barracks, a guardhouse, bastions, and assorted huts. Construction began on an interpretive center and administrative offices on Jefferson Street in 2003. The park is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Groups are asked to call in advance.

Map of Fort St. Jean Baptiste (LA)

Latitude, Longitude: 31.752424, -93.088005

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Activities

  • Historic Sites

    Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site open daily with costumed interpreters on site. Visitors can celebrate Christmas 18th-century style with historians, re-enactors, and period merchants occupying the fort during the second weekend in December. Customized tours and self-guided tours are available. Tour duration is 45-60 minutes.

  • Picnicking

    A picnic area is available.

Directions

Driving

From I-49, head east on Hwy. 6 into Natchitoches. Hwy. 6 becomes College Drive. Follow College Drive for approximately 2 miles and take a left onto rue Jefferson. The site will be on the right.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(318) 357-3101

Links