Lake Catherine & the Rigolets

Tour curated by: Charlotte Dover, Virgil Dover, and the University of New Orleans History Department

The Rigolets is an area of New Orleans East that has played a vital part in New Orleans history. Maroon communities developed in the area during the colonial period, and forts were later built to protect the city. Most of what made this area distinctive has been washed away, but there are a few remains of this once integral part of the city. This tour explores sites that have been restored as well as a few that no longer exist except as photographs and memories.

This tour includes the Fort Pike historic site, which charges a small fee; however, should the tour be completed at night or if you want to avoid the fee, one can visit the surrounding areas instead. It is recommended that one tour the area in daylight so that the sites are easier to view and the animals are easier to avoid.

This is a hybrid driving/walking tour that spans a ten mile stretch of Chef Menteur Highway through the Lake Catherine area. NOTE: There are lots of mosquitoes at most times of the year, so bring repellent, and watch out for snakes during the warmer months. Please, be respectful of the wildlife.

The tour begins at Fort Macomb, which is located near the intersection of Highway 90 and Fort Macomb Road. The fort is on the right, and is not accessible to foot traffic but can easily be seen from a shell road that leads along the opposite bank of the adjacent canal.

Locations for Tour

Previously named Fort Wood, Fort Macomb was built around 1815 on the site of an older fort named Chef Menteur. Nine miles from Fort Pike, architect Simon Bernard's structure was thought to be impregnable to enemy troops attacking in the narrow…

Fort Pike Volunteer Fire Department has served the Rigolets community since 1956. In its earliest days, if a fire began in the Lake Catherine community, the department had to pump water from the surrounding bodies of water to extinguish the blaze.…

From the parking lot of Fort Pike, look in the north-northwesterly direction underneath the bridge towards the red-roofed bait store and marina (see picture). Past this building, somewhere near the shoreline, Fort Petite Coquilles once stood. This…

From your position in the parking lot, look towards the overpass leading to the northeast. Underneath the bridge you can see the point where the Rigolets Pass snakes towards Lake Ponchartrain. At the head of this peninsula is where the West Rigolets…

Fort Pike, named after General Zebulon Montgomery Pike, was completed in 1828. It originally was named Fort Petite Coquilles after the structure it was meant to replace. Made with brick and stone, Fort Pike is stronger than its Second System…

While inside the fort, climb to the top of the parapet in the far right corner (when viewed from the entryway). Look in a south-easterly direction across the lake towards a strip of land with some trees (see photo 1) and you will see marsh where the…