Louisiana August 13, 2019
Not Many People Know That Louisiana Used To Have Its Own Resort Island
Yep, it’s true. About 200 years ago, Louisiana had a resort island that was quite popular. That is until a hurricane came through and destroyed not only the resort but the island itself. If you’re a history buff, read on, because not many people know that Louisiana used to have its own resort island.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
In the early 1800s, Last Island was a beautiful island resort frequented by many Louisianians looking to get away from city life.
Back then, the island was one long island that measured about 25 miles long, one mile wide, and was approximately five feet above sea level. The island has changed a bit since then, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
Known for its white sandy beaches, blue water, and continuous breeze, it was a popular vacation spot for many plantation owners and other wealthy Louisianians. In the 1850s it was known as the "finest beach in the world."
It also became a popular spot for those looking to escape the yellow fever epidemic of 1853 which killed more than 10,000 people in New Orleans alone. By 1854, Last Island had more than 100 private homes and a resort hotel, the Muggah’s Hotel. The hotel was the biggest structure on the island and included a grand ballroom, a restaurant, a carousel, a bowling alley, billiards room, and so much more. It was truly the place to spend your summer. By 1854, the Opelousas Railroad Express was completed, which significantly shortened the steamboat portion of the trip, attracting even more visitors to the island. More hotels popped up, more houses were built, and a growing community was forming.
On August 10, 1856, one of the strongest hurricanes ever recorded in U.S. history struck the island.
Unfortunately, they lacked the technology back then to predict hurricane patterns, so there wasn’t enough time to give any of the residents any type of warning or evacuation notice. The unnamed hurricane landed with the equivalent of a Category 4 storm with winds upwards of 150 miles per hour.
At the time of the hurricane, there were 500 people on the island.
The steamboat Star, the regular steamer service to the island, docked and people hunkered down in the ship while the storm blew through, but not everyone made it to the ship. After only four hours, the entire island was submerged, every building has been destroyed, and more than 200 people had died as the 13-foot storm surge demolished the island.
Survivors wrote stories about seeing their loved ones pulled into the rising water, watching the hotel disintegrate by the rushing water, and people clinging to nearby trees, and floating lumber to survive. In the aftermath of the storm, several corpses were strewn about the island, either partially buried in the sand or dangling from tree branches.
The storm struck with such force that it broke the island into five separate islands.
After the hurricane destroyed the island, it became known as "Isles Dernieres" which means Last Islands in French. The five islands are East, Trinity, Whiskey, Raccoon, and Wine.
Today the islands make up the Terrebonne Barrier Island Refuge.
It’s now a haven for seagulls, pelicans, and other seabirds. Fishing, picnicking and overnight camping are allowed in the public use area of Trinity Island, but the other islands are off-limits to the public.
To see an aerial view of what the islands look like today, check out this Youtube video by T. Baker Smith.
Did you know about Last Island? If so, well done! Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.