4 Captivating Reasons to Visit Jungle Gardens

The kids running through the bamboo 'forest' at Jungle Gardens.

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One of Lousiana’s best-kept secrets lies on a geographic oddity along the coast – Avery Island. Miles from any large body of water, this salt dome is referred to as an island because it is surrounded by wetlands.

Avery Island is most famous for being the home of the McIlhenny Company, the makers of Tabasco Hot Sauce. But there’s more to this destination than this famed American factory.

The island is home to Jungle Gardens, a 170-acre botanical garden that opened to the public in 1935. This garden is more than just flowers though.

Here are 4 captivating reasons to visit Jungle Gardens:

Jungle Garden’s Bird City

Jungle Gardens contains a bird sanctuary aptly named Bird City. Edward Avery McIlhenny created the sanctuary in 1895 when he learned that snowy egrets were nearly extinct due to plume hunters.

(Great Egret – photo courtesy of junglegardens.org.)

He found surviving egrets along the coast and brought them back to Avery Island where he tended them until their release in the fall for migration. They returned the following spring, bringing even more egrets with them. Each year they continued to return with more feathered friends until Bird City’s rookery became home to an estimated 100,000 egrets.

Since we visited Jungle Gardens in mid-October, the rookery was empty. The egrets had already begun their fall migration. But I hope to return one day in the fall to see these beautiful birds!

The empty rookery at Bird City on Avery Island.
(The empty Bird City rookery.)

Ancient Oak Trees

One of my favorite parts of our drive through Jungle Gardens was seeing the century-old oak trees. Laden with Spanish moss, limbs sprawling in all directions, I could have stayed for hours taking pictures of these majestic trees. However, the sultry Louisiana heat and my kids wouldn’t allow it. I did get one good shot though!

The century-old oak trees at Jungle Gardens on Avery Island.
(My sweet family in front of a live oak grove.)

The Cleveland Oak is located in Jungle Gardens. It’s named after President Grover Cleveland and boasts a girth of almost 25 feet. It is estimated that this tree is more than 300 years old!

The Cleveland Oak in Jungle Gardens on Avery Island in Louisiana.
(Photo of the Cleveland Oak courtesy of 100oaks.com.)

Bamboo Forest

In addition to creating Bird City and planting hundreds of species of flowers and plants, McIlhenny planted more than 64 types of bamboo. Making Jungle Gardens one of the oldest timber bamboo groves in America.

In the bamboo thicket at Jungle Gardens.
(In the bamboo ‘forest.)
The kids running through the bamboo 'forest' at Jungle Gardens.
(My little explorers.)

There were several walking trails throughout the garden, so it was easy to get an up-close look at all of the plants. My girls loved running through the bamboo ‘forest’.

A small bamboo thicket on Avery Island, Louisiana.
(A bamboo thicket in the garden.)

Jungle Gardens Buddha

Perhaps the most surprising thing we found in Jungle Gardens was the Buddha statue. In 1936, McIlhenny was gifted the 900-year-old statue by family friends in New York.

The 900-year-old Buddha statue at Jungle Gardens in Louisiana.
(The bright sun made it difficult to get a good picture.)

It was a little disappointing that we had to take pictures of the Buddha through glass windows. However, one of the statue’s ears was broken by a guest years ago and the family keeps the shrine locked to protect it from further damage.

The shrine housing the Buddha statue on Avery Island.
(The shrine that houses the Buddha statue.)

McIlhenny built a shrine for the Buddha and set it atop one of the ‘7 Hills of Knowledge’ in the garden. He even dug a lagoon and built a stone bridge to complement the little temple.

The stone bridge at Jungle Gardens in Louisiana.
(View of the bridge from the temple.)

Our trip to Avery Island was a welcome respite from the monotony at Fort Polk. And a trip to the ‘island’ is not complete without a visit to Jungle Gardens!

My only regret was that we didn’t make the trip during the spring when everything was in bloom and the egrets were there. However, it’s just a good excuse to visit again in the future!

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