Boom or Bust Byway
Dramatic ups and downs in the oil and gas, lumber, transportation, farming and entertainment businesses over the years produced both the best and the worst of times in northwestern Louisiana. The Boom or Bust Byway, which runs along Highway 2, pays tribute to the fortunes made and lost in this area. Along the way, visitors can take in the beauty of north Louisiana, known for its rolling hills, tall pines and beautiful lakes and bayous. Oil derricks stand as reminders of the state’s longtime ties to the energy industry, while fields of cotton and tranquil cattle pastures reflect the ongoing importance of agriculture. Not far from the city of Shreveport, communities with names like Plain Dealing and Shongaloo that dot the area preserve a small-town, relaxed way of life. Here’s a sample of what you’ll find:
Homer to Gilliam
In the quaint town of Homer, one of only four antebellum courthouses remaining in Louisiana dominates Courthouse Square. The Greek Revival-style building, still in use today, is surrounded by other sites listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Herbert S. Ford Memorial Museum offers a fascinating look at the history of the area through artifacts of pioneer, antebellum and Civil War life and displays of turn-of-the-century rooms. Kids will enjoy seeing the general store and medical offices.
As you continue your drive, keep your camera ready. A loop around beautiful Lake Claiborne offers glimpses of fishermen plying the crystal waters while casting for bass, bream and perch. Ducks, deer and smaller critters abound here. Back along Highway 2, you’ll pass fields of wildflowers, winding bayous and small towns.
Gilliam to Vivian
This section of the byway, near the Louisiana/Texas border, loops through several small towns, most of which grew out of the railroad, cotton or oil industry. Several museums tell the history of the towns. In Vivian, visit the Depot Museum to learn about railroading’s early days in the area. Hungry? Stop by Outlaw Bar-B-Q, where locals love the ribs and sandwiches with all the fixins. Oil City is a small town with a big history: Originally settled by the Caddo Indians, it became known for the “wildcatters” who flocked there in search of big finds in the oil fields. The Louisiana State Oil & Gas Museum traces the history of both the Native American settlers and the wildcat days, and includes full-size replicas of early Oil City homes.
Not far from the southern end of the Boom or Bust Byway lie the “sister” cities of Shreveport and Bossier City, which offer casinos and live entertainment, Louisiana- and Texas-influenced cuisine and the Louisiana Boardwalk, a shopping and entertainment center along the Red River.
A trip along the Boom or Bust Byway is a good way to get a feel for the adventurous spirit of local people and the region’s many natural attributes.