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Visit Jefferson Island, Louisiana

Jefferson Island LA

Next time you're in the New Iberia area near Lafayette, Louisiana (Iberia Parish), consider taking a short drive down to Jefferson Island... home of beautiful gardens, unique history, a charming restaurant and peacocks! Yes, you read that right... peacocks!

Like its neighbor, Avery Island (home of Tabasco Pepper Sauce), Jefferson Island isn't an island in the way most of us think of islands... it sits atop a salt dome 75 feet above sea level. That's quite a bit higher than the surrounding marsh and prairies. Jefferson Island and Avery Island (also home of the Jungle Gardens) are 2 of the 5 salt dome "islands" that sit above the grassy marshlands of the region.


History of Jefferson Island

There are stories of the infamous pirate Jean Lafitte burying treasure on Jefferson Island.

Formerly known as Orange Island, Jefferson Island is named for actor Joseph Jefferson who bought the island in 1869. He built a Victorian-style hunting lodge in 1870 and named the island the Bob Acres Plantation after a character that he had played. This was not an agricultural plantation, but a social gathering place for Jefferson's friends including President Grover Cleveland.

After Mr Jefferson passed away in 1905, plantation ownership passed to his heirs who sold it in 1917. In 1950, the Bayless family planted what would become the Rip Van Winkle Gardens, named for Joseph Jefferson's most-played character.

Today the Joseph Jefferson Mansion (sometimes called the Jefferson House) is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The most unusual piece of history here happened in November of 1980. While drilling in Lake Peigneur, a Texaco drilling rig accidentally pierced the salt cavern beneath the lake. Water rushed into the salt mine caves below, and in a short period of time, the freshwater lake had drained into the mine shafts taking the drilling platforms, trees, land, barges, docks, the garden welcome center, conservatory and new house with it down a giant whirlpool. Amazingly, all of the mine workers escaped safely.

The once freshwater lake is brackish today as the empty lake became the depository for water flowing backward up the Delcambre Canal from the Gulf of Mexico. While the enlarged lake was refilling, it became the temporary home of a 164-foot waterfall.

Today, you can see the chimney of the house that was sucked into the lake. It's a quiet reminder of the very unique history of Lake Peigneur.

Things to Do on Jefferson Island LA

  • Enjoy lunch at Cafe Jefferson with a view through the windows of the glassed-in porch.
  • Wander amongst the giant live oaks on the shore of Lake Peigneur.
  • Watch a movie about the unique history of the property.
  • Search for peacocks (don't forget to look up in the trees!).
  • Tour the acres of gardens at Rip Van Winkle Gardens.
  • Explore the 1870 Joseph Jefferson Mansion.
  • Go birdwatching at Rip's Rookery. Bird watchers will enjoy watching Snowy Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills and other species of birds.

You can buy tickets to tour the Jefferson Mansion and/or the Rip Van Winkle Gardens and get information about all of the things to do on Jefferson Island at the Rip Van Winkle Welcome Center. The gift shop is also located in the welcome center.

We visited Jefferson Island during our stay in New Iberia, Louisiana for the Cajun RV Rally. This was one of the recommended side trips.

Where is Jefferson Island?

πŸ“ You'll find the Rip Van Winkle Gardens just a short drive from the City of New Iberia on Jefferson Island in South Louisiana: 5505 Rip Van Winkle Road, New Iberia, LA 70560

For More Information on Visiting Jefferson Island

Visit the Rip Van Winkle Gardens website

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Jefferson Island Fun Facts

Named For

19th century actor Joseph Jefferson

Year Home Was Built


Why Rip Van Winkle Gardens?

Jefferson portrayed that role 4,500 times

When was the Lake Peigneur Disaster?

November 20, 1980

How Deep Was Lake Peigneur Before?

10 feet

How Deep is Lake Peigneur Now?

200 feet

A Few Photos from Our Visit to Jefferson Island

Peacock at Jefferson Island
Peacocks are Everywhere!
Tom and Bill Under a HUGE Tree
Tom and Bill Under a HUGE Tree
Visitor Center
Visitor Center
Fountain with a View
Fountain with a View
Unusual History at Lake Peigneur
Unusual History at Lake Peigneur
Welcome Garden
Welcome Garden

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Tom and Stacie

Tom and Stacie Langland
"RV America Y'all"

Hey y'all! We are Native Texans and (since 2018) Full-Time RVers sharing the adventures, challenges, and joys of RV life as we travel. We love camping and hiking in State and National Parks, discovering history, visiting interesting and quirky places, and exploring small towns. We're on a mission to experience life, not just live it with our dog, Star, and our cat, Astro. You can also find us on our original RV travel website, Thanks for joining us as we RV America Y'all!

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