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A Brief History of the Louisiana State Arboretum

Caroline Dormon first suggested the idea of a State Arboretum. Dormon worked as a forestry educator for the Louisiana Department of Conservation's Forestry Section in the 1920's. She also wrote several books about native plants and was instrumental in having Kisatche National Forest established. She wanted to create a State Arboretum to educate all Louisianans about the importance of trees. Mrs. A. G. "Sudie" Lawton, a good friend of Ms. Dormon, became a State Park and Recreation Commission Board member in 1957. J.D. "Prof" Lafleur, a retired principal from Ville Platte, made a presentation at a Commission meeting that year. LaFleur, a Rotarian, was elaborating on the beautiful centuries old trees in Chicot State Park. His speech was so elegant that Sudie Lawton asked him to show her this place he described "it sounds like a perfect place for a State Arboretum". After seeing Chicot State Park Lawton and Lafleur collaborated to create the first state supported Arboretum in the United States. Ms. Dormon was a consultant and provided many of the original plantings for the arboretum. In a letter dated January 30, 1968 to Prof Lafleur, Dormon stated "I want you to come get a few things (plants) for the arboretum before spring gets here...they are most attractive but no nursery has them for sale." Their aim was to develop an area that would attract botanists, students, horticulturists, youth groups, and tourists from all over the world. Together they attracted many organizations from throughout the state to support and fund the establishment of the Arboretum.

In May of 1961, the State Parks and Recreation Commission headed by chairman, W.A. Wilson, and the Louisiana State Parks Director, Leroy A Talley, ordered the creation of the Louisiana State Arboretum and set aside 301 acres in Chicot State Park for the project. J. Ellis Dupre, Mrs. Joel Guillory, and Anthony Abdalla donated additional land for the entrance gate.

The Arboretum was officially dedicated in April of 1964 and serves as an area set aside for the growing and protection for all trees and shrubs native to Louisiana. In 1966 the Louisiana Legislature named the Caroline Dormon Lodge, completed in 1965, in honor of the noted naturalist. Today the lodge holds an exhibit dedicated to Ms. Dormon. 

The Arboretum's new visitor center is named in honor of J.D. "Prof" LaFleur and should be open in late summer of 2009.

*Established in 1961, the Louisiana State Arboretum was the first such area in the South and the first state-supported arboretum in the United States. The Arboretum contains 600 acres, has 6 miles of hiking trails, and an exhibit area dedicated to the trees of Louisiana.  To help preserve the Arboretum for future generations, removing or damaging any plants or animals is strictly prohibited. Pets and picnicking are not allowed on the grounds due to the preservation status of this site. Picnic grounds and camping facilities are available at nearby Chicot State Park.

Location and Directions

The Louisiana State Arboretum (LSA) is located on Louisiana Highway 3042, approximately six miles north of Ville Platte in Evangeline Parish inside of Chicot State Park. The Arboretum is open every day of the year excluding Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years day from 9:00 a.m-5:00 p.m.

To get to the LSA from I-49 take exit 46 (HWY 106) go toward St. Landry. Continue on Hwy 106 until it meets up with Chicot Park Road (Hwy 3042). Turn LEFT onto Hwy 3042 and go 4 milesto the entrance of Chicot State Park. Once inside of Chicot State Park take the first left and then the first left again.

Trail Distances

Baldcypress Trail             .3 miles
Backbone Ridge Trail       1.25 miles
Handicap Accessible        .25 mile
Wetland Trail                 .7 mile
Walker Branch Trail         1.5 miles
Paw Paw Loop                1.25 miles