We awoke to a beautiful day. The high was 78 but with 90% humidity, we welcomed the air conditioned drive to Baton Rouge. After church, we packed up and headed across the Atchafalaya River Basin; the largest river swamp in the United States. We stopped at exit 121 off of Highway 10 to go through a visitor’s center. It’s a fascinating little place with a 4 1/2 minute informative movie about the area. I think what impressed me most
was a very detailed map of Louisiana that showed just how much water really makes up the state. We drove over The Basin Bridge which goes through the swamp makes up a sizable portion of the drive between Lafayette and Baton Rouge. It’s too bad we are here when the trees are bare. The Spanish Moss that hangs from the Cypress trees is very beautiful, however. We saw some ‘houseboats’ (not the kind on which you vacation but actual houses built on the swamp) and hunting blinds. It’s a very curious thing that people would choose to live in a swamp with all its dangers.
On our way into Baton Rouge, we drove past the Old State Capitol. It looked very inviting but we didn’t have a lot of time so we headed over to the current State Capitol. There weren’t a lot of people there so we were able to talk at length with a few of the workers. Especially interesting was a man who was getting the Senate Chamber ready for tomorrow’s Inauguration Ceremony of Governor Bobby Jindahl and the swearing in of newly elected or re-elected Senators.
The capitol building itself is unlike any capitol building we have visited both inside and out. On the inside it is very ornate and is ripe with symbolism. The Senate and House Chambers are on either side of Memorial Hall, the room in which you first enter. There are elevators for the public, one for the house and senate members and one just for the governor. We took the public elevator up 27 floors to the observation deck. We still did not reach the very top of this amazing building which is the tallest capitol building in the country. From there we viewed the Mississippi River for the fifth time since starting our trip and the city of Baton Rouge. The outside of the capitol boasts a large staircase that has the name of each of the 50 states inscribed on its steps. Many varieties of flowers were in bloom on the grounds. We saw (and smelled) beautiful white and pink gardenias; one of my favorite flowers. The governor who pushed to have this capitol built in the 1930s was assassinated in the building. He is buried on the grounds under a large statue.
After we left the Capitol, we drove by the Old and New Governor’s Mansions. There was a lot of activity around both of these large homes that look like they should sit on a southern plantation. The grounds to both homes were beautiful.
Baton Rouge is also the home of Louisiana State University. The Italian Renaissance design of the buildings of this school make it by far the most unique school we have visited with its red pantile roofs, overhanging eaves and honey-colored stucco. The grounds are filled with magnolia and live oak trees. I later found out that the many live oaks on the campus have an estimated worth of over $50 million. LSU banners were very present both on the campus and all over Baton Rouge as the university gets ready to play Alabama for the BCS championship this week.
Before leaving the city, we drove down Historic Highland Road to view some of the most beautiful homes in Baton Rouge. Some were still decorated for Christmas.
There is a lot to do in Baton Rouge. We probably should have planned on staying near the city for a couple of days rather than just make a day trip. This is a big week for Louisiana so for now we are content to stay in our quiet little campground away from the traffic.