At the beginning of a tour at the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum, there may be a bottleneck. As groups approach the entrance to the 12,000-square-foot facility in Madisonville, it is easy to be distracted by crews building or repairing wooden boats. The volunteer shipbuilders are more than happy to share what’s going on; it could be a class or preparation for the annual Wooden Boat Festival held in October.
Once inside, a large, tabletop, hand-carved diorama also brings crowds to a halt. Created by noted local carver Nelson Plaisance, the intricacy of Rural Life on the Bayou depicts the day-to-day life of residents in the 1800s. Each building and accent piece is carved from local and found wood pieces.
According to Trixie LeBlanc, education coordinator at the museum, as groups move beyond the diorama, they step into local maritime history and the lives of people that lived on the Tchefuncte River and the lake. The journey begins with the story of the Native Americans who discovered the Northshore and continues to present day.
Bringing Louisiana’s maritime history to life is the driving force behind the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum. Along the walk through, groups will see pirogues, sailing ships, mementoes of times past and even an interactive station to tie nautical knots.
“A tour of the museum provides a maritime history of life on this side of Lake Pontchartrain,” LeBlanc said. “We have a prototype of a submarine in the large event room. With advance notice, we can schedule a lunch inside or outside on the dock by the river. Tours can be customized to meet the interests of the group.”
The museum is located on the Tchefuncte River on the site of the Jahncke Shipyard, which served in World War I to build 300-foot long wooden ships for the United States Navy. The Tchefuncte River Light Station is managed by the museum and is under restoration.
On-site motorcoach parking is available.
For more information, call 985-845-9200 or visit lpbmm.org.
Article by Mary Lu Laffey