Walk on the wild side Shreve­port, Bossier City area of­fers plenty of fun, food

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - SUNDAY LIFE - BY MO­RAN EL­WELL Staff Writer mel­well@ok­la­homan.com

SHREVE­PORT — Surely they wouldn’t let peo­ple zip line over al­li­ga­tors if it wasn’t safe, right?

This thought echoed in my head as I peered over the edge of the tall plat­form at the laz­ing lizards be­low.

“To­tally safe,” said Ray­mond, of Ga­tors and Friends just out­side Shreve­port, Louisiana, one of two places in the U.S. that you can have this par­tic­u­lar ad­ven­ture.

Af­ter watch­ing a safety video, I donned a hel­met and har­ness and joined a group of other ad­ven­tur­ers as we scaled more than 50 steps to a small, slightly sway­ing me­tal plat­form with a launch­pad on one side.

Even vis­i­tors afraid of heights were quickly charmed by the nov­elty of jump­ing off the plat­forms and speed­ing through trees over ex­otic an­i­mals.

It was the first in a course of seven lines, though a four-line course also is avail­able. The lines tra­verse the al­li­ga­tor park and ex­otic zoo.

The al­li­ga­tors, goats, ze­bras, horses, kan­ga­roos, lla­mas and camel be­low seemed blase about yet an­other hu­man fly­ing above them. They were more in­ter­ested in the vis­i­tors on the ground feed­ing them park-ap­proved pel­lets through their fences.

Es­tab­lished in 2006, the ad­ven­ture park also of­fers go kart rac­ing and group dis­counts.

A haven in the woods

For a dif­fer­ent an­i­mal ad­ven­ture, take a short car ride from down­town Shreve­port to Chimp Haven, The Na­tional Chim­panzee Sanc­tu­ary.

In the 1990s, ex­per­i­men­tal use of chim­panzees for sci­en­tific re­search was on the de­cline, and a con­cerned group of peo­ple had the idea for a sanc­tu­ary. In 1995, Chimp Haven was in­cor­po­rated, and in 2005, it ac­cepted its first chimps.

Cur­rently home to more than 200 re­tired and res­cued chim­panzees, con­struc­tion is un­der­way to make room for about 200 more.

“We will not stop tak­ing in chim­panzees ex­cept dur­ing our nor­mal time dur­ing the sum­mer, when it’s too hot,” said Ash­ley Gor­don, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and re­gional devel­op­ment man­ager at the sanc­tu­ary.

Once the re­tired chim­panzees ar­rive at Chimp Haven, they are held in a med­i­cal suite for 30 days, re­ceiv­ing two phys­i­cals and be­ing ob­served for be­hav­ior to help de­cide which ex­ist­ing colony they’ll be placed in, ex­plained Katy Rush­ing, a ve­teri­nary tech­ni­cian at Chimp Haven.

The re­tired chimps of­ten have the same med­i­cal prob­lems that plague ag­ing hu­mans, and of­ten are given the same med­i­ca­tions.

“Just about any med­i­ca­tion a per­son can be on, a chimp can be on,” Rush­ing said.

This in­cludes birth con­trol med­i­ca­tion, which most of the fe­male chimps are on. De­spite this and the males be­ing given va­sec­tomies, there have been four “oops” ba­bies born at the sanc­tu­ary.

“Ba­bies are a fun as­pect, but ev­ery time we have one, it takes the space of a chimp that could re­tire,” Rush­ing said.

The sanc­tu­ary’s web­site, http://chim­phaven. org, of­fers an up-close look at most of the chimps, in­clud­ing their names, pho­tos and a brief de­scrip­tion of each.

To get a look in per­son, visit Chimp Haven at one of its Dis­cov­ery Days, when the pub­lic is in­vited to ob­serve the chimps in their habi­tats and learn more from the staff. The days only hap­pen four times a year. The next one is set for Nov. 17.

Ac­com­mo­da­tions and air­fare were pro­vided by the Shreve­port-Bossier Con­ven­tion & Tourist Bureau.

Other spots to visit

• Herby K’s, Shreve­port, Louisiana: Fam­ily-owned Herby K’s has been in busi­ness since 1936. Fa­mous for its fresh Gulf oys­ters and Shrimp Buster sand­wich, vis­i­tors also are en­cour­aged to try the house cock­tail, a Pink Flamingo, while ad­mir­ing the me­men­tos and pieces of Shreve­port his­tory that line the walls.

• Red River Brew­ing and Fat

Calf Boucherie, Shreve­port:

Pop into this mi­cro­brew­ery and gas­tropub and pre­pare to stay a while. Or­der a hearty Cuban, bratwurst or grilled cheese sand­wich; mouth­wa­ter­ing crispy Brus­sels sprouts, jumbo chicken wings or pou­tine from the grounded Fat Calf Boucherie food truck that sits in­side the build­ing. The meats are pro­vided the lo­cal Smith Fam­ily Farms, which feeds its live­stock grains left­over from the mi­cro­brew­ery. While you’re sip­ping one of the in-house brews, play one of the lo­cally made ar­cade games or catch some live mu­sic.

• Great Raft Brew­ing, Shreve­port: Lind­say and An­drew Na­tions have cre­ated a brew­ing com­pany they hope shares their love of craft beer. Work­ing with Chief Brewer Har­vey Ken­ney, the cou­ple are fo­cus­ing on fresh, qual­ity in­gre­di­ents. One of the Great Raft Brew­ing beers fea­tures hops that are in the build­ing brew­ing within 36 hours of be­ing picked in the Pa­cific North­west.

• Cre­ole Cafe & Cater­ing, Shreve­port: Less than a year old, the (for now) small Cre­ole Cafe is work­ing hard to feed the com­mu­nity. Henry Grif­fin is busy in the kitchen pro­duc­ing de­li­cious boudin balls, Cre­ole maque choux shrimp balls, fried cat­fish and sugar cane peach cob­bler. Call ahead and get an or­der of jam­bal­aya topped with potato salad to go, or sit a while and chat with the de­light­ful Dr. Gail, Henry’s mother, who works the front of house.

• Mar­i­lynn's Place, Shreve­port: Bring your fam­ily, your ap­petite and maybe even your dog to this con­verted ser­vice sta­tion. Chef “Boz” Bau­cum, a Shreve­port na­tive, en­ter­tains while mak­ing sure all of his pa­trons are well-fed and have a drink in hand. Be sure to try the Gril­lades and grits, a tra­di­tional Cre­ole meal.

• South­ern Maid Donuts, Shreve­port: Make sure to visit about 4 p.m. on week­days, when dough­nuts fresh out of the fryer are served.

Elvis Pres­ley ev­i­dently loved these glazed treats so much they were the only thing he ever made a com­mer­cial en­dorse­ment for.

• Whisk Dessert Bar,

Shreve­port: Stop in for a “whiskuit,” a wet-bat­ter bis­cuit with top­pings that can in­clude sal­mon, poached eggs and fried chicken. In the mood for some­thing sweet? Belly up to the dessert bar where owner Blake Jack­son isn’t pulling any punches. Treats that taste as good as they look line the counter of this Euro­pean/South­ern bak­ery.

• Long­wood Gen­eral Store, Moor­ingsport, Louisiana:

Not far from the grave of blues mu­si­cian Lead Belly, this gen­eral store of­fers quick bites, gas and de­li­cious steaks. Stop in for a sit-down din­ner with all the trim­mings, then grab frozen treat from one of the store’s freez­ers be­fore check­ing out.

• Mu­rals: Shreve­port and Bossier City have quite a few great mu­rals, in­clud­ing “Once in a Mil­len­nium Moon,” one of the largest pub­licly funded pub­lic mu­rals in the na­tion. The 19 peo­ple fea­tured by artist Meg Salig­man in the piece were picked as mod­els ran­domly from a cast of thou­sands.

• Shreve­port Mu­nic­i­pal Au­di­to­rium, Shreve­port: The Louisiana Hayride coun­try mu­sic show was broad­cast from here from 1948 to 1960. A statue of Pres­ley, who per­formed on the ra­dio show in 1954, adorns the out­side of the build­ing and a nearby street sign fea­tur­ing a gui­tar and his face denotes Elvis Pres­ley Av­enue.

• The Jump Off, Shreve­port:

In Louisiana, it’s per­fectly le­gal to get drive-thru al­co­hol-laden daiquiris. Or go in­side, where owner Corey Shep­herd is likely to greet you with sound ef­fects and tasty frozen con­coc­tions.

• 2 Johns Steak & Seafood, Bossier City, Louisiana: An at­ten­tive staff and ex­cel­lent live mu­sic take this fine din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to the next level. Choose from a menu loaded with fresh seafood and steak, or or­der from an ex­ten­sive wine and cock­tail list.

• Cot­ton Boll Grill, Shreve­port: Stop in for a hearty break­fast and a large, but­tery pan­cake you won’t soon for­get. His­toric pho­tos of Shreve­port and Bossier

City line the walls of this 80-year-old diner.

Shreve­port-Bossier City on­line

Twit­ter: @SBCTB

In­sta­gram: @SeeShreve­portBossier

Face­book: @Shreve­portBossier~Louisiana’s Other Side

Hash­tags: #SBFunSide and #Eat318

Where to stay

Shreve­port and Bossier City are home to many Airbnbs, in­clud­ing one shaped like a light­house with a me­tal flame on top. For a ho­tel, try the Court­yard by Mar­riott Shreve­port-Bossier City Louisiana Board­walk, which is on the river front and within walk­ing dis­tance of an out­let mall, movie theater and sev­eral casi­nos.


Al­li­ga­tors swim in the wa­ter be­neath a zip line at Ga­tors and Friends in Louisiana.


Al­li­ga­tors line the wa­ters near a zip line tower at Ga­tors and Friends in Louisiana.

A moat sur­rounds sev­eral of the chim­panzee habi­tats at Chimp Haven in Kei­thville, Louisiana.

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