One thing that many of us overlook is what we have in our own "back yard".  I'm not talking about the rusted out barbecue pit next to the ripped up trampoline, I'm talking about the attractions that bring visitors to Acadiana throughout the year.


Take, for instance, the Butte LaRose Rest Area, home of the Atchafalaya Welcome Center.

It's been our "oasis" on I-10 for years, and I'm sure you've pulled in there coming back from a weekend in New Orleans (you thought you could hold it all the way to Lafayette!).  When you did, did you venture past the restrooms?  If so, you would have found nutrias and 'gators and bears (oh my!!)!

The Atchafalaya Welcome Center, part of the Louisiana Office of Tourism, is like the World Book version of the Atchafalaya Basin;  information about the ecology, the economy, and the joie de vivre that IS the Cajun way of life!

Taxidermic displays of real animals, including bobcat, bear, nutria, raccoon, alligator and more turn the lobby into a veritable snapshot of the Atchafalaya Basin.  Informative and educational (shhh!  don't tell the kids that they'll learn something, they'll just think they are having fun!) placards and animatronics that tell the "story" of the basin line the way to the small theatre, where a 4-minute film (shown every 7 minutes or so, in a loop) tells the story of the basin, and gives an insight to the life and the times of the Cajun people.

The Atchafalaya Welcome Center is open to all - seven days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (restrooms are open 24/7 for the convenience of the I-10 travelers).  If you stop in during "business hours", you'll be able to enjoy the displays and pick up maps, brochures and printed guides, not only about the Atchafalaya Basin, but about many of the attractions that make South Louisiana a place that we are proud to call "Home".  Be sure to sign the guest book, grab a cup of Community Coffee, and visit with Ms. Donna, Ms. Linda and Ms. Betty for a REAL serving of Southern Hospitality!

The Atchafalaya Welcome Center is open to all - seven days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., except for New Year's Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving Day, & Christmas Day (closed).  The center is located under the elevated portion of Interstate 10 at exit 121, between Lafayette and Baton Rouge.

Before you bring friends from out-of-town to visit the welcome center, you need to go there yourself (it's great "family time");  that way, when you do brings guests, you will know your way around the facility, you'll be able to answer their questions about the basin, and you'll impress them, big-time!!

For additional information at the Louisiana Atchafalaya Basin Welcome Center in Butte LaRose, call 337-228-1094.

(Via Department of Natural Resources)