Just east of the Mississippi riverbank, Zachary is a comfortable and green northern suburb of Baton Rouge.
The suburban tranquility in Zachary conceals a tumultuous past, as the longest siege in U.S. military history took place just to the west in 1863.
The setting for the bloody Siege of Port Hudson is now a state historic site in an incredible state of preservation.
Also on Zachary’s doorstep are numerous public attractions managed by the Recreation and Park Commission for the Parish of East Baton Rouge (BREC), from golf courses to boating lakes to Baton Rouge Zoo, just ten minutes to the south.
1. Baton Rouge
Louisiana’s state capital is a mere 20 minutes from downtown Zachary, and has more than 200+ years of history to dive into.
For a quick rundown of the obligatory sights, there’s the current and former state capitols and the present and past governor’s mansions.
You can immerse yourself in Louisiana’s history and culture at the modern Capitol Park Museum, and step aboard USS Kidd (DD-661), a Fletcher-class destroyer launched in 1943 and serving in the Pacific theater, notably the Battle of Okinawa (1945).
Then there’s Louisiana State University (LSU), with one of the country’s prettiest campuses, a real lion for a mascot and all-conquering collegiate sports teams.
2. Baton Rouge Zoo
In Zachary you’re a matter of minutes from one of the region’s top attractions, at Baton Rouge Zoo, which has more than 800 animals from around the world.
The headline exhibit at the heart of this attraction is Realm of the Tiger, keeping Malayan and Sumatran tigers and siamang gibbons, along with a koi pond and a wonderful walk-through Asian aviary.
You can get to know the many water-based species native to this state at L’aquarium de Louisiane and the neighboring Otter Pond.
For wee ones there’s the superb Kidszoo with safe domestic animals, and the wildlife-themed Safari Playground.
A miniature train runs around the perimeter of the park, and there’s a list of interesting talks, feedings and demonstrations to check out all day long.
3. Port Hudson State Historic Site
By spring 1863, the last Confederate outpost on the Mississippi was on high ground just west of modern day Zachary at Port Hudson.
In May, Union forces began a three-month siege to the fort, eventually achieving victory but only at a considerable price, with 5,000 killed or wounded and another 5,000 dead from disease by July.
Among this toll were many members of the 1st and 3rd regiments of the Louisiana Native Guards. Made up of freemen of French extraction and former enslaved African Americans, these regiments took part in the brutal and costly initial assault.
Preserving the fort and some of the battleground, the Port Hudson State Historic Site has a rare level of preservation, and on interpretive trails you can trace the earthworks and get an accurate lie of the land.
The museum here has an artillery display and explains what was at stake at this place in 1863.
4. Zachary Farmers’ Market
Just behind City Hall, there’s a weekly farmers’ market on Saturdays, in the shade of beautiful live oaks in HugYourPeople Park.
For a community of 20,000 or so, Zachary has a busy market, with more than 60 vendors expected each week.
What you get is an exceptional choice of seasonal fruit and vegetables, as well as eggs, honey, sauces, jams, farm-raised meats, fresh bread, confectionery and a big variety of crafts, from eco candles to sweet seasonal decorations.
The market also has a choice of prepared food, from egg rolls to burgers, tacos and Cajun classics like andouille. On the second Saturday of the month, the Cars and Coffee Club stages an open car show, with vintage cars, trucks and motorcycles.
5. Zachary Youth Park/Zachary Community Park
There’s a sprawling public space on the western edge of the city, packed with recreation amenities.
At the north end, on Mt Pleasant-Zachary Rd is the 33-acre Zachary Youth Park, with facilities for baseball and softball, as well as a playground, picnic areas and a half-mile walking path.
The playground is worth mentioning for its landing area, which is composed of rubber from recycled tyres.
On the south side of the youth park is BREC’s Zachary Community Park, on more than 40 acres and boasting a lake, dog park, skate park, splash pad, rec center, and outdoor amenities for basketball and volleyball.
6. Old Town Hall
At the southeast corner of the intersection of Main Street and Lee Street stands Zachary’s historic former town hall.
This was built with poured concrete in 1931, and if it seems humble, it’s worth remembering that Zachary was a community of just 600 people back then.
As you can see, the fire department was part of the same building, and at that time people would call the mayor’s office to report a fire.
The building still contains the original Council Table where the aldermen would meet once a month, and a collection of antique books, harking back to a lending predating Zachary’s current library.
When we wrote this article plans were underway to turn the Old Town Hall into a local museum.
7. Greenwood Community Park
At almost 400 acres, the nearby Greenwood Community Park is one of the largest BREC parks, attracting visitors from a wide radius, including Zachary.
The park is on the same parcel of land as Baton Rouge Zoo and encloses an 18-acre lake for fishing, boating and paddling.
You can rent kayaks, canoes, paddleboards and fishing gear from the Waterfront building, which also contains the Waterfront Café and the pro shop for the 18-hole Dumas Memorial Golf Course in the park.
You’ve also got 18 holes of disc golf, a tennis center and a giant community playground for the little ones, accompanied by a splash pad open April through October.
8. Port Hudson National Cemetery
Immediately after the Siege of Port Hudson, the site of the main battleground became a cemetery where most of the approximately 4,000 Union soldiers who fell in the fighting were buried.
In the years following the end of the Civil War the Port Hudson National Cemetery almost doubled in size to the current 19.9 acres, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.
The original cemetery, on a rectangular plan, is still enclosed by a brick wall from 1875. The perpendicular paths here converge at a central circular mound, with a flagpole that has a a bronze shield inscribed with the cemetery’s founding date and number of interments.
9. Cohn Arboretum
Another BREC facility to keep on your radar is this delightful arboretum in nearby Brownfields. The tree collections at the Cohn Arboretum were first assembled in the 1920s by one Laurens Henry Cohn, Sr., a WWI veteran and LSU alum, who had an interest in native and exotic plants.
On 16 acres there are more than 300 species of native and adaptable trees and shrubs, combined with a butterfly garden, ponds, lakes, a fruit orchard and a collection of bamboo.
The Cohn home remains on the site as a museum, and guided tours are available by appointment.
10. Blackwater Conservation Area
The Comite River serves as Zachary’s eastern boundary, eventually flowing into the Amite River a few miles to the southeast.
One of a few protected spaces on the riverbank is the Blackwater Conservation Area, managed by BREC.
On the east bank, this the site of a former gravel mine, now slowly being taken over by native tree species like bald cypress, oaks, cottonwood, tupelo gum, red mulberry, river birch, persimmon and pines.
A color-coded trail system winds around a pair of large fishing lakes, while amenities include a fishing pier and pavilion.
11. Zachary Branch Library
The city is rightly proud of its modern public library, purpose-built in the early 00s. As mentioned, the first library opened in the Old Town Hall in the 1930s, and from the 60s was in a space attached to the Louisiana National Bank building.
Offering free Wi-Fi access, the Zachary Branch Library has extensive collections of books, magazines, CDs, videos, recorded books and newspapers, with separate areas for adults and young people, and spaces provided for exhibits and displays.
As a visitor you can stop by to plan your next steps in the Baton Rouge area.
12. Beaver Creek Golf Club
On the way to Port Hudson is one of two acclaimed public golf courses in Zachary. Beaver Creek Golf Club is a BREC facility, with an interesting contrast between the front and back nine.
The opening holes are on exposed ground, and you’ll need to take the breezes into account when you pick your shots.
The back nine is in a sheltered wetland setting, with water hazards all around. The course has first-class practice facilities, with a lighted driving range, a chipping area and a large practice green, while the Creekside Grill is a welcoming place to talk over your round with your companions.
13. Copper Mill Golf Club
Another well-regarded course in Zachary is Copper Mill Golf Club, often recognized as one of the top ten courses in the state by Golfer’s Digest.
Adapting to the existing grasses, marshes and wetlands, Copper Mill Golf Club is an open, links-style course.
Hazards come in the form of water hazards on 13 of the 18 holes, as well as more than 50 carefully positioned bunkers. The signature hole is the par-4 17th, with an approach guarded on the left side by the ruins of the namesake copper mill.
14. Baton Rouge Raceway
If you’re in the mood for some blistering high-speed action there’s a ⅜-mile dirt oval less than ten minutes from downtown Zachary.
April through October, the Baton Rouge Raceway has events most Friday nights for a lineup of classes including CRUSA Crate Late Models, Stingers, Mini Wedges, Street Stocks, Pure Stocks, Limited Mods and more.
This is a family-friendly venue, with a number of seasonal events, including trick or treating at Halloween, and regular bicycle and power wheel races.
15. Magnolia Ridge Adventure Park
A short way north of Zachary is officially the largest zipline course in South Louisiana. Set in more than 30 acres of scenic hardwood forest by the Comite River in Ethel, Magnolia Ridge Adventure Park is a thrilling way to appreciate the region’s beauty.
The High Elements Course here is a journey through the treetops, up to 70 feet over the forest floor, with plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife like turkeys, North American river otters and whitetail deer.
There are eight ziplines in the course, each progressively longer, building up to the longest zipline in the state, at 900 feet, with majestic views of the Comite River on this 45-second ride.