Dive into Cajun culture on a trip along the Bayou Teche Byway in south central Louisiana

Illustrated map by Steven Stankiewicz

Shaded by bald cypress trees and moss-laden oaks, thronged with alligators, and resonant with the calls of frogs and birds, the Bayou Teche slowly winds its way 125 miles through south central Louisiana. Until a few thousand years ago, this waterway was the main channel of the Mississippi River. But as it became increasingly clogged with silt, the Mississippi altered its coursea process known as deltaic shifting. What remained in the former bed was a slow-moving waterway, no longer a river but not a swamp, something in betweena bayou.

The Chitimacha Tribe, who began settling along its banks around 500 CE, offered another story of the bayous origins, one involving a monstrous, miles-long serpent that terrorized their villages. Their legend holds that when their warriors slew the snake, its turning and writhing created the bed of the Bayou Teche (teche is the Chitimacha word for snake).

In the 1700s, French, Spanish, and Anglo-American settlers began moving into the area. They were followed at centurys end by the AcadiansFrench Canadian exiles who would come to culturally dominate the region known today as the heart of Acadiana or Cajun country.

Travelers along Louisiana Highway 182, part of the Bayou Teche Byway, will find themselves immersed in Cajun culture. Family-owned establishments serve up steaming bowls of crawfish etouffee and oven-fresh loaves of French bread. Small museums and stately historic homes showcase stories of life along th....

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