The American South, as a region, often conjures images of ante bellum life on plantations along majestic rivers. But the region is much more, of course. The national parks of the region also celebrate Southern life and preserve the rich traditions of more than three centuries. In these parks, we see history and some of the nation's most stunning natural resources.

While many national parks in the South commemorate Civil War battles, other historical sites, recreational areas, or remember the contributions of famous Southerners, two national parks in Louisiana place emphasis on the state's diverse culture and its world-known musical contributions.

The Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, headquartered in New Orleans, emphasizes the Acadian and Cajun cultures as well as the military and political history of the region. With multiple locations, the park and preserve represents much of Louisiana, the state's rich history, and its diverse people.

The New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park, a uniquely urban national park, pays tribute to American jazz, which is widely recognized as forming its roots and evolving in New Orleans more than a century ago.

For the past few years, both parks have been recovering from the damage of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and are on their way back from that destructive event.

The Gulf Islands National Seashore of North Florida and South Mississippi offers a wide range of recreational activities and historic sites to visitors. At the Gulf Islands, visitors are able to swim, fish, boat, dive, and camp in protected beach areas. The park also offers historic 19th Century fortifications that were once part of the national defense of the Gulf region.

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