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Hodges Gardens State Park, previously known as Hodges Gardens, Park and Wilderness Area, is located on 4,700 acres (19 km2) between Florien and Hornbeck near the Toledo Bend Reservoir of the Sabine River in Sabine Parish in west central Louisiana. The facility offers walking trails, formal gardens, arboretum, the Azalea Overlook, waterfalls, and a visitor center. Originally, privately developed during the 1940s and opened to the public in 1956, it became part of the Louisiana public parks system in April 2007. It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is $5 per adult.

The site features 40 acres (160,000 m2) of gardens, a 225-acre (0.9 km2) bass fishing lake, hiking and biking trails, and RV and wilderness camping. It is believed to be the largest privately owned horticultural park and recreation area in the United States.

The Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism and the Office of State Parks now operate the gardens. Renovations are underway to existing structures. Hodges Gardens opened its renovated and rewired cabins on March 20, 2008. Camping facilities will be available in the summer of 2008.

Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu, head of the Culture, Recreation, and Tourism Department, said that the state has signed a transfer agreement with the Hodges Foundation. Landrieu noted that Andrew Jackson Hodges, Sr. (1890-1966), "took a barren 700-acre (2.8 km2) stone quarry and turned it into a thriving tourist area. The state’s takeover of the park will restore the garden’s original beauty, upgrade accommodations, and ultimately add value to this economic asset."

Hodges, a native of Cotton Valley in Webster Parish, and his wife, the former Nona Trigg, recognized the potential of the old quarry and planned a scenic garden about the natural rock formations. Flowers were planted on one level above another. Walkways were laid, and foot bridges were constructed. Streams, waterfalls and a 225-acre (0.91 km2) lake were created to enhance the site.

One of the consultants in developing the gardens was Caroline Dormon, a botanist, horticulturist, ornithologist, historian, archeologist, preservationist, naturalist, conservationist, and author from Natchitoches Parish.

The park is located on U.S. Highway 171 some fifteen miles (24 km) south of Many, the seat of Sabine Parish.

Hodges Gardens' haunting

According to a rumor that circulated in the area, Hodges Gardens was haunted for a brief time after the death of the then-owner, A.J. Hodges. Nona Trigg Hodges was reportedly followed by a little black dog which she was convinced was the ghost of her husband who had returned from the dead to haunt her. The dog would appear by her side inexplicably and in the oddest places. Despite many attempts to rid herself of it, the dog kept returning. Nona Hodges feared for her life and packed her things. She did not return to the gardens, and no small black dog has been reported since that time.

Pictures from the Gardens

References

www.lastateparks.com

http://www.toledo-bend.com/hodges-gardens/index.asp#hours

http://www.thetowntalk.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070428/NEWS01/70426030

http://www.thetowntalk.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070812/NEWS01/70704010

http://ssdi.rootsweb.com/cgi-bin/ssdi.cgi

http://www.thetowntalk.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080320/NEWS01/303200020

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