We discovered a winery, national forest, and three plantations

We discovered a winery, national forest, and three plantations on our latest RV expedition to Louisiana.

It is a few weeks after our Florida trip. Since we have been home, we have successfully survived the Great Texas Freeze of 2021, and therefore we found ourselves more than ready for a new adventure.

In one of my neverending internet searches for fun places to travel to, I discovered the Kisatchie National Forest near Natchitoches, Louisiana. Off we went with a loose plan to overnight at a winery in Anahuac, travel to the national forest, and boondock at its Custis primitive campground.

Frascone Winery

308 Bayside Dr.
Anahuac, TX 77514

A winery, a National Forest and three plantations
We discovered a winery, national forest, and three plantation

This cozy little winery near Anahuac was a delightful surprise. We stopped here on the first night of our trip as Harvest Host guests.

We discovered a winery, national forest, and three plantation

We had a terrific evening at the winery, sampling excellent wine, making new friends, and hearing the owners, Jim and Katy’s, fantastic life stories. I had heard about the famous gator rolls Katy makes, and the reviews were absolutely accurate. Who knew you could make an alligator eggroll, and it would be delicious?

Great people

We met and visited with three young RV travelers at the winery, who later brought us pizza to our RV! It is rare to find such genuinely friendly young people willing to spend time with the “older generation.” I believe we all enjoyed the evening conversation.

We discovered a winery, national forest, and three plantations

Our young friends recommended the excellent Biker’s Blood wine. We sampled it at the winery and purchased a bottle to take home also.

Kisatchie National Forest

After a great night’s sleep in Anahuac and a filling breakfast cooked on our Blackstone grill, we struck out for central Louisiana and the Kisatchie National Forest.

Custis Camp

We discovered a winery, national forest, and three plantations

The very primitive Custis Camp area that we chose to spend the next few nights is part of the National Red Dirt Wildlife Management Area Preserve. This Preserve is owned by and part of the Kisatchie National Forest. Also, this Preserve is a popular year-round hunting location.


The only national forest in Louisiana, the Kisatchie National Forest, covers parts of seven Louisiana parishes. We encountered not one other RV or tent camper the entire time we were here. Beautiful, natural, and isolated would be the best words to describe Custis Camp. It was great to sit outside the RV and listen to birds’ sounds and the trees rustling in the wind.

We discovered a winery, national forest, and three plantations

The Kisatchie National Forest offers many recreational activities, including miles of hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding trails. Camping, boating, fishing are also available as well.

Melrose Plantation

3533 Highway 119
Melrose, LA 71452

Melrose Plantation, formerly a cotton and pecan plantation, is a short distance from the city of Natchitoches, is situated on Cane River Lake banks, and is also over 200-years-old.

Guided Tours

Small hour-long group tours are offered here on Thursdays through Sunday from 10:15 until 3:15 in the afternoon, and adult tickets are $15. The tour guide provided excellent and detailed historical information.

There are nine historic buildings on the plantation property. However, the present plantation home, finished in 1833, has been renovated and added on many times.

Yucca House

The Yucca House, built between 1796 and 1814, is the original plantation home. It is the oldest building on the property.

African House

This is the African House, and it was built between 1800 and 1830. It is not actually an African-style house but is modeled after a French Colonial-style barn. The roof is built so low because no matter what time it is during the day, the sun doesn’t hit the bricks, and it will stay cool downstairs.

We discovered a winery, national forest, and three plantations

The original plantation owner was Louis Metoyer. Melrose Plantation had other owners through the years, but in 1898 John Hampton Henry inherited the property. Soon after that, Cammie Garrett Henry, John Hampton Henry’s wife, began an art colony here and invited artists from all over the country to stay with her. That art colony became wildly popular.

Cammie Henry had two rules at her art colony. The artists were invited to stay without cost, but they were required to have dinner with her each night, and the artist had to be working on his or her craft. If you did not follow these two rules, Cammie Henry would pack the offending artist’s bags and send them on their way. She passed away in 1955, and the artist colony closed.

Clementine Hunter

Clementine Hunter did not begin her famous self-taught painting career until about a year after the artist retreat closed. Her art depicts daily life in the South and is on display throughout the Plantation.

Some facets of her paintings are unique to her own style. For example, if she really liked a person she was painting into her art, she would paint that person larger than everyone else in the painting. When she did not like a person, she would paint that person’s figure much smaller. She was a very prolific and renowned artist.

Clementine Hunter’s artwork has been displayed in multiple museums throughout the United States, including the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture. In 2019, October 1 was designated at Clementine Hunter Day by the Louisiana Legislature. She lived to be 101 years old.

Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches

In 1969 the entirety of Melrose Plantation, 911 acres, was sold to a Texas company. This company, in turn, sold the six and a half acres that the plantation buildings sit on to the Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches. This Association still owns the site and continues to repair and maintain the property.


We had the good fortune to meet folk artist Hambone at the gift shop at Melrose Plantation. He was kind enough to explain a bit about his art and the book he has written. Hambone is a self-taught artist, and his work illustrates the colorful history Louisiana has.

I purchased a copy of Hambone’s book!

St. Augustine Catholic Church

This beautiful church, short distance from Melrose, was founded by Louis Metoyer’s older brother, Nicholas Augustin Metoyer in 1829. St. Augustine Catholic Church was the first church in Louisiana to be built by and for people from African descent.

By the way, this is also the church where the wedding scene from the movie Steel Magnolias. Steel Magnolia tours are available in Natchitoches that travel to visit this church,

Oakland Plantation

4386 Highway 494
Natchez, LA 71456

We discovered a winery, national forest, and three plantations

Oakland Plantation, a National Historic Landmark, is owned by the National Park Service and provides free self-guided tours daily, except for major federal holidays.

Eight generations of the Jean Pierre Emanuel Prud’homme family lived and worked here for over two centuries. The Plantation first raised tobacco and indigo and later, during the 1800s, began growing cotton.

This was a slave Plantation, and, remarkably, many descendants of these enslaved people remained at this Plantation into the 20th century. Today almost 60 buildings stand at Oakland Plantation and provide great insight into plantation life along the Cane River.

Glass colored bottles are used to outline the sections of this garden in front of the plantation.

Magnolia Plantation

5549 Highway 119
Cloutierville, LA 71416

We came across a flyer advertising a memorial illumination event here in remembrance and honor of the slaves from this Plantation and held as part of Black History Month. While we had no idea what to expect, we decided to save this Plantation until the evening to attend this event.

We signed in at the front porch and were given lanterns to help us in our half-mile walk through the property. The National Park Service staff had placed luminaries representing each of the individual enslaved men, women, and children outside of several buildings on the property.

Handwriting on the luminaries identified the names, ages, place of origin, and the enslaved people’s skills when the information was available. Some luminaries, however, were blank, with no writing. Researchers could determine that the person existed on the Plantation, but no other information was available. An illuminated sack was displayed to represent each of the 725 documented slaves from 1787 through 1793.

This was an incredibly sobering sight to see and even more sobering to think about later.

We did not tour this Plantation during the day, but I have read the Plantation was established in 1835. Cotton was the main crop grown here, and the 275 enslaved persons harvested it.

Today the Plantation is a National Historic Park and is open for self-guided tours. The main house, however, is privately owned and not open to the public.

Cane River Commissary

4191-4197 LA-494
Natchez, LA 71456

We discovered a winery, national forest, and three plantations

We cook and prepare most of our meals because they are more economical, healthier, often quicker, and fun. We still enjoy eating out occasionally and had a wonderful experience at this restaurant recommended by Olivia, my tour guide at Melrose Plantation.

We discovered a winery, national forest, and three plantations

I did try one of the meat pies Natchitoches is famous for and understand its great popularity now. The highlight, for me, however, was the beignet sticks! They were similar to churros, but still beignets.

Boondocking at Melrose Plantation

It turned out that Melrose Plantation is also a Harvest Host location, and we moved from our Custis campsite to Melrose Plantation. Custis campsite was great, but Melrose is near Magnolia Plantation, and we were more comfortable leaving Tank and Lilly in the RV nearby while we attended the Illumination event.

We were back on the road early the next morning on our way back home after having had a terrific time visiting the winery, the peaceful forest, and visiting and learning the history of the three plantations in central Louisiana. Once again, we met some great people along the way, including the staff at each plantation. Steve and I are already, of course, planning our next little journey. Check back to see which direction we head next.

We discovered a winery, national forest, and three plantations

3 thoughts on “We discovered a winery, national forest, and three plantations

  1. Pingback: Why do we love the Texas Gulf Coast? | Always Want To Go
    1. Thank you! We do usually manage to have a good time. There are always “things” to deal with or manage, but it always ends up a good time at the end of the day.

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