The Allen Parish Tourist Commission welcomes all to Allen Parish to take part in the unique culture of Cajun Country and have a true Southern Louisiana experience. The population of Allen Parish is approximately 24,000, with Oakdale as the largest city, which has about 8,000 residents.
Allen Parish, Louisiana is a large rural area that is known for its farming, hunting, fishing – and also for having 56,000 acres of rice that is planted each year. Approximately 15,000 of these acres have a second crop of crawfish, and these locally grown crawfish are sold in Allen Parish to locals, visitors, and local restaurants.
The Allen Parish Tourist Commission consists of an administrative office, a Welcome Center and a Museum. The administrative office is located in Oberlin, which is where design, marketing and budgetary work is done. The Welcome Center is located at 18255 Highway 165, three miles north of Kinder, Louisiana, where there are brochures, coffee and good conversation offered to all visitors who stop in. This is where the Wall of Honor is currently located, a wall that is a tribute to the Veterans of Allen Parish. A local artist, Gary Nupp, draws 8 X 10 portraits of local veterans to be put up on the wall.
The Welcome Center is in the process of having an addition built. According to Executive Director Adagria Haddock, this addition will house a swamp scene featuring native animals from the Southern Louisiana area, such as alligators, neutra rat, river otter, beaver and many more. There will also be a music museum and a Coushatta Heritage room.
The north side property of the Welcome Center is a Cajun Prairie. These types of areas are all but gone now, and prairies like this one are being planted in various parts of Louisiana in an effort to preserve the prairies. It is two and a half acres of land that has been planted with native wild grasses and wildflowers and will depict the old Cajun Prairies that were prevalent in Allen Parish back when the lumber industry was just getting started in the area.
Allen Parish is well known for the successful blending of different cultures and languages. It is the home of the Coushatta Indian tribe known as the “Red Shoes People,” and visitors are invited to enjoy Native American dancers at the Coushatta Indian Powwow Celebration in full colorful regalia. People come together at the Coushatta Casino Resort to enjoy Native American arts and crafts, food booths and much more. For more information about times and dates, the Allen Parish website, at allenparish.com, has a convenient link.
The Leatherwood Museum is located at 202 East 7th Avenue in Oakdale, Louisiana and dates back to 1888. Walking through the front doors is like a journey back into history, from the original furniture and dishware to the early medical and dental equipment upstairs. This local museum features a military exhibit with uniforms from WW1 through the Vietnam War. There is also an exhibit concerning the Great War Maneuvers held in Louisiana in the early 1940s. These war games, which were mock battles to prepare America’s soldiers for the war that had begun in Europe, were run by General Kruger, his Chief of Staff Dwight Eisenhower and General George Patton, and many others. The museum also features a Native American exhibit that has one of the largest arrow head and point collections in the area, including a fish hook chipped out of a rock, and a Native Wildlife Exhibit that features 20 animals in their native habit.
The main tourism attraction and employer for the parish is the Coushatta Casino Resort. It boasts a 100,000 square foot gaming floor with over 2,800 slots and 70 tables, luxurious restaurants, live entertainment, an RV resort, top-rated golf and much more, making it Louisiana’s largest casino resort. Koasati Pines is the top casino golf course in Louisiana and has been rated 4.5 stars by the Golf Digest’s readers. The Allen Parish website describes the course in detail: “A dynamic 18-hole, par 72 championship layout, six sets of tees, multiple approaches on four holes, plus a unique ‘gambling’ hole, makes this the perfect golfer’s paradise.” The Dream Pool with the Lazy River is an ideal spot for everyone. It is considered to be the best pool in the region, and features a long lazy river, two slides, a splash pad area for children, and a swim-up bar for adults.
The Coushatta Casino Resort and the Ouiska Chitto Creek are both strong economic drivers for the tourism sector in Allen Parish. “While the outfitters for the Ouiska Chitto Creek are few and don’t employ but a few people for each outfitter,” Adagria explains, “canoeing is the second largest attraction in Allen Parish.”
The current economic growth in Southwest Louisiana has created more traffic for the tourism and recreation sectors of the parish. It has seen much improvement since its biggest challenge in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans and just two weeks later, Hurricane Rita hit Cameron. “These two hurricanes were mass destruction and the tourism industry in the State of Louisiana was very slow for a while. It took a while, but we were able to overcome this and get back to normal,” explains Adagria. Most tourists come for the casino’s many amenities, although many who come to see the casino also venture out to other places in the parish. The canoeing activities lead to the purchase of fuel, food, drinks and other needed products, and all this local shopping is beneficial for the economy.
What makes Allen Parish unique is that there is such a diverse culture. It is the beginning of the Cajun culture stemming from Texas and features some of the best food such as boudin, made with secret recipes and smoked meats like ponce, rabbit and venison. Even the convenience stores offer some of the best fried chicken and fish sold anywhere; add to that a delicious deep-fried corn-on-the cob as a side, and you have a great delicious meal, Convenience Store du Jour style.
Another key draw of Allen Parish is the wide variety of activities available for people with all different kinds of interests. The casino, the golf course, and pool are great attractions, and there are also outdoor options to enjoy for the adventurous tourists. The Ouiska Chitto creek has white, sandy beaches and is perfect for tubing, kayaking, and a canoe trip or maybe even some primitive camping, sleeping beneath the starlit sky and eating over a campfire. For the hunters, Dry Creek Ranch is a spot where the hunt is guaranteed. The options for hunting include duck, pheasants and deer, and there is also a West Bay Wildlife Game Reserve where deer and turkey hunts are available. The 30 acre pond at Dry Creek Ranch is great place to fish, and there is lodging for tourists in the cabins. The average temperature in Allen Parish is 75 degrees, and with an average of three hundred sunny days per year, the weather is well suited for outdoor recreation.
The Myths and Legends Byway is the newest attraction to the Allen Parish area. This byway is 181 miles long and covers Allen, Beauregard and Vernon Parishes, highlighting the rural areas. Driving along the back roads is popular these days, and off-the-beaten-path shops, farmer’s markets and flea markets are an added attraction to the ride. There is a guide/game book at each tourism center with information about how to get through the byway and 22 kiosks located along the byway itself. It is an immersive experience based on tall tales, true stories, myths, and legends. This is a great way to discover the real Louisiana, learning about its small town museums, exciting festivals, centuries of history, and the people who make Louisiana what it is.
The Allen Parish Tourist Commission is looking ahead to the opportunity to bring in bus tours to drive the byway. The Myths and Legends Byway Committee attended Travel South this year to pitch the byway to tour bus operators, an idea which was warmly received. Another plan is to host the Re-Thunk Junk 60+ Mile Flea Market Trail again this October. This event was held in 2016 as a one-day event and was very successful. According to Adagria, “Even the smallest community, Reeves, which is designated as a Village, had to have its local police department out directing traffic. We had people from Texas, Oklahoma and other states visiting our area as well.” The event was such a success that the team is expanding it to a two-day event this year. It will be held each year on the 3rd Friday and Saturday in October, and this year’s dates are October 20 and 21, 2017.
Another attraction to Allen Parish is horse racing. Metro Soileau Downs is home to the only Trottingbred Racing in the area. By mixing the happy, two-stepping sounds of Cajun and Zydeco music with the sounds of people cheering to horses running alongside plenty of good food, the Soileau tailgate party was created. This happens bimonthly at the Metro Soileau Downs.
No doubt, the fun atmosphere of Allen Parish is contagious. Whether it is the experience of Cour de Mardi Gras and the parade, or simply enjoying the outdoors, the energy of the locals and the relaxed lifestyle of Southern Louisiana is sure to have a positive effect. Once that is combined with the comfort of Southern food and Cajun music, the full picture is enough for anyone to appreciate the welcoming culture of Louisiana. The Allen Parish Tourism Commission is showing visitors how to immerse themselves into Cajun Country.