Jungle Gardens, Avery Island, LA

Avery Island is a salt dome located in the Iberia Parish of Louisiana. It sits 3 miles from Vermilion Bay which is at the opening of the Gulf of Mexico. There are not a lot of residents of the island, but it is well known for its salt mining, sugar plantations, and hot sauce. The island is also a bird sanctuary and filled with numerous exotic plants. The rock salt that the island is made up of makes it difficult for anyone to reside on the island, though as mentioned some do. To get to the island there is a toll road which charges $1.

One place to visit while on Avery Island is Jungle Gardens. Edward Avery was born on the island in 1872. He became an arctic explorer, conservationist, and naturalist. While on Avery Island he studied the salt marshes, plants, and animals. In 1895 Edward Avery founded a private bird sanctuary for the snowy egret. Jungle Gardens began in 1920 when Edward Avery opened up the private sanctuary into a public one. The estate was part of his Jungle Gardens park featuring a number of botanical plants from around the world. The gardens eventually became the 250 acres it is today. As part of the garden creation Edward made a gully into a Sunken Garden and created a Palm Garden in a sand mining pit. Camellias and Azaleas native to Louisiana can be found during mild winters and summer months.

It took until 1935 to have the gardens completed and ready for actual public viewing. Jungle Gardens provides a five mile drive for visitors today. There are oak groves, lagoons, wisteria, hollies, camellias, and wildlife to view during the drive. There are also some short walks visitors can take when they park their car in designated spots. The road leads to a tiled pavilion which has an ancient Cleveland Oak. This leads to the bird observatory platform and bamboo area of Bird City.

The piece de resistance of Jungle Gardens is the Buddha housed in the pavilion. The Buddha is 900 years old. In the 1920's a Chinese warlord sent the Buddha to America, but no one claimed it so it sat in a New York City Warehouse until 1936. It was purchased by Avery to be placed in his Asian Garden section of the park. A forest pool, stone bridge, glass temple, Sasanqua, and bamboo surround the Buddha.

The road one follows to get around Jungle Gardens begins at a gatehouse with an education area. Visitors can stop at the center to learn about the variety of plants, bird species, and other wildlife. From there the trip moves to the live oaks, camellias, bamboo and the other sites. There are a couple of paths to take to reach the end at Bird City.

Jungle Gardens Avery Island is open daily from 9am to 5pm. Admission is $6.25 for adults and $4.50 for children 12 and under. There is also a conservation fee of $1 for all vehicles that come to the island.

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