When we head to St. Martin Parish, we're familiar with Henderson, Breaux Bridge, St. Martinville and more. But there's a piece of St. Martin Parish that most of haven't been to.
Louisiana is already unique with our political boundaries. For example, we have parishes, not counties. And here in Acadiana, we have something even more rare.
St. Martin Parish President Chester Cedars says, "Well, we're probably the only parish in the state that is not contiguous. We have a portion of our parish in which you have to traverse through two other parishes in order to get there from the main part of St. Martin Parish."
It's pretty simple traveling to the main part of St. Martin, but most of us haven't entered from St. Mary Parish. Yeah, you need to travel through Morgan City in order to get to Lower St. Martin. That's over 60 miles from St. Martinville, the home of St. Martin Parish government.
It's home to Stephensville and Belle River. Both communities obviously love the water. They depend on it and they fight it. The drive down LA 70 and LA 997 along the levee is gorgeous. Most of the time you have the road to yourself. But what happened and why is it like this? If you continue traveling up a lonely 997 from Belle River, you'll end up back in Iberia Parish. This is the part that split St. Martin in half.
Cedars adds, "It's my understanding that back in the mid 1800s, perhaps the 1840s or 1850s, somewhere in that area, the legislature, created Iberia Parish. And in creating it, there was some sort of, so the books tell us, some survey error that ended up segregating St. Martin Parish into two areas.
That can bring other challenges for Iberia Parish as well. According the the Iberia Sheriff's Office, the part of LA 997 in that part of Iberia Parish is over 70 miles away from New Iberia by car. Therefore, Iberville Parish law enforcement helps to cover that small stretch.
I asked Cedars, as parish president, does he feel cheated out of some territory? He said, "No, but I feel for the residents in that area sometimes. Because they feel like they're not getting their far share. I understand that. It's very, very unique and I just invite people to take a drive and just ride around the highway 70 corridor between St. Mary and Assumption Parish. That is St. Martin Parish!"
On your way back, you don't necessarily have to turn around. You can drive through Bayou Pigeon, which takes you along the Port Allen Lock, so be prepared to get stopped at a draw bridge or two. You can then grab LA 75 and LA 77 northward to Grosse Tete and back to Interstate 10.
Other fun facts about this area. Students in lower St. Martin Parish go to school at Stephensville Elementary through eighth grade, but are able to attend Morgan City High School in St. Mary Parish. The far eastern tip of Iberia Parish along LA 997 is only 10 miles as the crow flies from the Mississippi River. The only Acadiana parish that's closer is St. Landry. Melville is 9.5 miles from Morganza.