Arrgh, matey! Welcome to Barataria. Even the name of this place, a French word for fraudulence, illegality or “dishonesty at sea,’’ conjures the name of this region’s most infamous outlaw-turned-patriot resident: Jean Lafitte. In 1808 Jean and his lesser-known brother, Pierre, organized the smugglers and privateers that operated under “letters of marque’’ in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico by creating headquarters at nearby Grand Terre, a barrier island. They used the Indian shell middens still visible along the bayous for storehouses and sold goods to merchants and plantation owners. But even Lafitte and his men proved themselves patriots during the War of 1812 when they rallied to help Gen. Andrew Jackson defend the city during the Battle of New Orleans. Afterward, the Baratarians were granted pardons and many settled in the area. From here the story of Jean Lafitte gets hazy, and no one is sure what became of the pirate-patriot. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the region developed as a community of fishers who harvested shrimp, oysters, crab, and finfish. Minks, muskrats, and alligators were harvested for their skin and fur. Plantations along the bayous of Barataria grew rice and sugarcane. Canary Islanders settled and farmed near present-day Crown Point. Today travelers come to sample modern-day Cajun culture as well as to explore one of Louisiana’s most beautiful gems— the Barataria unit of Jean Lafitte Historical National Park and Preserve. Die-hard anglers come to drop their achy-breaky hooks into the surrounding waters that teem with redfish, bass, speckled trout, flounder, king mackerel, red snapper, amberjack, white trout, pompano, and cobia. Whether you’re canoeing through the same swamp Jean Lafitte and his men lived in, enjoying a Cajun two-step at a lively fais do do, or reeling in the one that didn’t get away, this Day Trip less than thirty minutes from New Orleans will give you a taste for what makes the city’s history and culture so unique. This eTrail from the DayTrips series describes many fascinating, exciting, (and many free of charge) things to do, most within a two-hour drive of New Orleans. Each Day Trip includes, destination highlights, places to visit along the way, choice restaurants and lodging, and shopping.
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