Capture New Orleans from a different perspective. Kayak on Bayou St. John as we guide you along our historic waterway running through the city. We’ll keep with the pace of the city—nice and easy, taking in the southern scenery, hospitality and weather.
The bayou itself was a key component in establishing our city. The Native Americans showed early explorers (Iberville and his brother, Bienville) the bayou as a way to access, at the time, a potential future city from the Gulf of Mexico without having to fight the Mississippi River’s strong currents. While kayaking, you will see some of the older city structures, like the Spanish Custom House and the Pitot House, both built in the late 1700’s. You might hear and catch a glimpse of the happenings at Fair Grounds Race Course, one of the oldest horse tracks in the United States, as well as the site of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. You will be paddling along side beautiful City Park, which houses centuries-old live oak trees. You’ll see New Orleans Museum of Art as you pass the grand entrance of the park. St. Louis Cemetery #3 will be visible from your kayak. The elaborate above-ground tombs are pretty spectacular.
There is plenty of wildlife to observe. It isn’t uncommon to spot a blue herring perched on an old piling or a pelican diving into the water after a fish. At sunrise or dusk you might notice one or 15 of the notorious nocturnal nutria venturing out for a swim and a snack.
Bayou St. John flows through many thriving neighborhoods. You’ll have the opportunity to observe (and maybe interact with) the other wildlife. Folks do all sorts of things on the banks of the bayou—exercise, play, picnic, tag, etc. You’ll certainly get a feel for New Orleans through the local community.
A variety of foliage surrounds Bayou St. John—cypress trees, oak trees, magnolia trees, crepe myrtles, etc. The locals living along the bayou build colorful festive gardens that can be seen while touring.
This experience will bring balance to many things: You’ll find nature in an urban setting, visit history in the present, have a few active hours among several decadent ones, and feel local while vacationing.
Take a walking tour of the area!
Rachel Dangermond submitted the information below:
City Park and Bayou St. John
The intersection of Esplanade Ave. at Bayou St. John and
City Park Ave. is one of the points of higher elevation in the
city. Bayou Metairie flowed into Bayou St. John here. Bienville
is supposed to have found the Indian village of Tchou-Tchouma
in 1718 where the Esplanade Ave. bridge is now located. In the
18th and 19th centuries Bayou St. John provided an important
second water route to the city. The mouth of the bayou at
Lake Pontchartrain was protected by a fort built by the Spanish.
Ocean going vessels were able to travel as far as the present
end of the bayou. From this point goods were carried to and
from the city by portage during the 18th century along Bayou
Road. In 1805, a canal was dug, following an earlier canal by
Spanish governor Carondelet, which brought the ships to a
turning basin just behind what is now the Municipal Auditorium
at Basin St.
City Park is a beautiful and well maintained
urban park, the largest in the city and fifth largest municipal
park in the United States and, at this writing, is reported to
be one of the safest. In 1854, the first section of the park
was acquired by the city. This tract of land, fronting on
Bayou St. John and present City Park Ave., was part of the
Allard Plantation. The first improvements to the park were
made in the 1890’s. The park is laced with lagoons (the
lagoons along City Park Ave. are part of old Bayou Metairie,
seven miles of them which contain bass and bream), and
trees typical of the region such as magnolias and live oaks
(the dueling oaks are named for the duels that were supposed
to have taken place from 1804 to 1830).
The amusement park area has a fine old carousel dating from
1904. The Casino, dating from about 1914
is the center for information, rentals, and refreshments
(domed band shell and Beaux Art style pavilion were built in
the 30’s). The park has three 18-hole golf courses. Major restorations
and all of the paving of roadways, construction of bridges, drainage
and other improvements in a large area of the park were done under
WPA in the late 30’s.
Replica of the Pitot House c. 1940
800 Moss Street
A modern version of thePitot House (see 1440 Moss Street below) . One
of the original Pitot House mantels still survives in the newer residence.
Louis Blanc Housec. 1798
924 Moss Street
Formerly the plantation and home Louis Antonio Blanc. The
second story gallery has slender colonnettes and the
French window, jalousies and steep roof are characteristic of
Louisiana colonial plantation houses; similar to Parlange
and Homeplace Plantations elsewhere in the state.
Spanish Custom Housec. 1784
1300 Moss Street
A small-scale typical Louisiana Plantation hose. Various
reasons have been given for the name of the so-called
“Custom House” although there is no real tradition that it
ever functioned in this manner. Probably built for Don
Santiago Lloreins when the land formed part of his
Evariste Blanc House
(Holy Rosary Rectory)
1342 Moss Street
Some Greek Revival alterations have been made in this
Bayou St. John plantation house, although evidence of an
earlier style including slender colonnettes and round arched
doors, is plainly visible.
Cabrini High School1964 – 1965
1400 Moss Street
1347 Moss Street
Mid-19th century, possibly constructed as a residence
for the attorney Christoval Morel in the late 1840’s after
he purchased a large tract of land on the Bayou St. John
in 1847. The house served as New Orleans’ first Fencing
Club in the 1880’s and one time as a rowing club. From
1935 until her death the house served as the home of Dr.
Elizabeth Wisner, an original member of the faculty and later
the dean of the School of Social Work at Tulane University.
Christoval Morel’s father, Pierre L. Morel dueled under the
oaks in City Park while his wife (Victorine de Armas) was
pregnant with Christoval. The Duelling Oaks in City Park
have seen some of the most colorful scenes in New Orleans’ history.
For years sword clanged against sword and bullets streaked between
the ancient trees.
An article in the Times-Democrat, March 13, 1892, said,
“Blood has been shed under the old cathedral aisles of
nature. Between 1834 and 1844 scarcely a day passed
without duels being fought at the Oaks. Why, it would not be strange
if the very violets blossomed red of this soaked grass!
The lover for his mistress, the gentleman for his honor, the courtier for
his King; what loyalty has not cried out in pistol
shot and scratch of steel! Sometimes two or three hundred
people hurried from the city to witness these human baitings.
On the occasion of one duel the spectators could stand no
more, drew their swords, and there was a general melee.”
In early Creole days more duels were fought in New Orleans
than any other American city. Creole honor was a thing of intricate delicacy,
to be offended by a word or glance. The Duelling Oaks were a favorite setting
for these affaires d’honneur, with pistol, saber,
or colichemarde, a long sword with a broad forte and very
slender foible, a favorite duelling weapon since the
Creoles were expert swordsmen and often delighted in any
and every opportunity to exhibit their art. Duels were fought
over real and trivial insults, were sometimes deliberately
provoked by young men anxious to display their skill. A quarrel between rival lovers,
a fancied slight, a political argument, a difference of opinion regarding an opera,
any one of these things was ample excuse for a duel under the oaks. In his
History of Louisiana, Alcee Fortier states that on one Sunday
in 1839 ten duels were fought here.
In 1855 the police began to enforce the laws against duelling,
but it continued surreptitiously for many years, despite
frequent arrests and prosecutions. Finally, however, the law
began to have some effect and there seems to have arisen a simultaneous
loss of interest in the affairs. At last the time
came when a man challenged to defend his honor with the
sword or pistol, suffered no stigma by refusing an invitation
to the Oaks. By 1890 duelling was only history.
The house is a frame one and a half story Greek Revival style structure raised
off the ground on six-foot-high piles. The large half story created by the gabled
roof is broken by two fine dormers on the Bayou St. John façade. The roof which
extends outward to form a gallery across the bayou façade
is supported by six square wooden columns resting on the
brick piers below.
The entrance façade is five bays wide with the front door
placed at the center. The façade is covered with ship-lap
siding while ordinary weatherboards cover the solid brick
exterior walls. The rear, which once contained a gallery and
two cabinets, has been converted to a kitchen/den/breakfast area.
The house is very similar to raised houses in the Bayou-
Lafourche area. However, by the 1840’s the traditional
Creole plan with no hall had been replaced with the
increasingly popular center hall plan favored by Americans.
As such, this house is an important example of two
different building styles. Morel house is a New Orleans
landmark. New Orleans Designated Landmarks
c. 1796 – 1799
1440 Moss Street (Formerly 1370 Moss Street)
In 1964 as a result of a trade with Cabrini High School
the Pitot House, threatened with demolition, was moved
about 200 feet and is now located in a corner of the
Desmare Playground. It is another fine Moss Street example
of the Louisiana plantation house on a fairly small scale.
While the upper part of the present structure is totally
original, some of the older brick columns were either re-used
or rebuilt after the move. Restored under the auspices of the
Louisiana Landmarks Society. Open Thursday 11 am – 4 pm.
Musgrove-Wilkinson Housec. 1850’s
1454 Moss Street
A large, extremely simple Greek Revival residence, with wide central
hall and plain interior mouldings.
New Orleans Museum of Art1911
1971 Additions: Stern Auditorium, Wisner Educational Wing
and City Wing – August Perez & Associates, Architects and
Arthur Feitel, Consulting Architect.
The Degas House
Courtyard & Inn 2306 Esplanade Avenue New Orleans,
Louisiana 70119 (504) 821-5009 www.degashouse.com