OUR OPINION: National Scenic Byway designation comes for River Road

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

One of our favorite places on the planet is a long and winding road.

We’re talking, of course, about Louisiana’s “Great River Road.”

To travel this byway along the father of waters even once is a great thrill. Growing up on the road has proven an irresistible lure for many Louisianans in the River Parishes. For them, where the river and the road flow is home.

Now, the River Road has been designated a national Scenic Byway by the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration.

This honor accorded the 717 miles along the river route and through 18 Louisiana parishes does more than make our chests swell with pride.

It means that Louisiana tourism promotion will have additional opportunities on state, local and federal levels, and that dollars for improving the road are also more likely to come down the pike.

The Great River Road now joins Louisiana’s only other byway to be part of America’s Byway system. The Creole Nature Trail in Calcasieu and Cameron parishes in the southwest part of the state, another of our favorite roadways, was designated an All-American Road in 2002.

Without a doubt, the River Road, home as it is to Oak Alley Plantation, Houmas House in Ascension Parish, San Francisco Plantation, Laura Plantation, plus all the small and large surprises and joys one inevitably encounters on while riding the road, deserves its new designation.

Officially, Scenic Byway or All-American Road designation, means the highway must have archaeological, enriching, historical, natural, entertaining and scenic intrinsic qualities.

The Louisiana River Road designation was earned primarily on the basis of historical qualities that include Native American mounds, historical structures and cities within the river corridor.

It doesn’t really matter that stopping off in a rundown little grocery and being able to order a world-class po-boy, or riding down the road during sugar cane harvest season and breathing the sugar fragrant air, are not on the qualification list.

The Great River Road is now officially part of America’s Byway system. Folks traveling the road will still be free to enjoy the little things that have contributed to the mystique of the road that locals have treasured over the many years.