The 137-mile Boom or Bust Byway tells the universal American story of the dramatic ups and downs in the oil and gas, lumber, transportation, farming and entertainment businesses over the decades that produced both the best and the worst of times. It represents a microcosm of American history experienced throughout the United States in the 18th through 20th centuries. America experienced western expansion or Manifest Destiny as envisioned by American President Thomas Jefferson. This changed the American landscape, American history and American lifestyles.
Western expansion affected the native people, who survived off the land, to the settlers, who moved across the nation building towns and starting businesses. Railroads spilt communities, lumber barons plundered the forest and woodlands to build new towns and large ornate houses to display newly-found wealth, oil and gas was discovered and that changed America forever, charging the nation from an agrarian-based society forward into the American industrial revolution. Moreover, it tells stories of the unbridled American spirit and the inventiveness and resilience of the American people as they transform from one industry to another and from one way of life to another.
The Boom or Bust Byway passes through rolling hills, tall pines, beautiful lakes and bayous. Oil derricks scattered in the meadows along the way are reminders of the state’s longtime ties to the energy industry and are memorialized at the Louisiana State Oil and Gas Museum in Oil City. Fields of cotton and tranquil cattle pastures reflect the ongoing agriculture. One of byway’s most distinctive historic sites is the Germantown Colony at Minden. Settled as a 19th century commune or Utopian Society, it flourished as a self-contained town for 40 years. It was a commune in the full sense of the term. No one owned anything outright and everyone worked together for the common good.
Through such byway attractions as the Homer Historic District, with its stately Claiborne Parish Courthouse and Claiborne Hotel, now the Herbert S. Ford Museum, visitors see exhibits depicting American history as it changed from agricultural fields to oil fields.
Entertainment along the Boom or Bust Byway dates back decades too. KWKH launched the airing of the historic Louisiana Hayride, which was transmitted throughout the central part of the United States. The Louisiana Hayride launched the careers of Hank Williams and Elvis Presley. It gained such international attention that country music performers clamored to perform on the live broadcast. Famous names such as Faron Young, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Jim Reeves, Tex Ritter and George Jones all played the Louisiana Hayride.
Other than the theme of the Boom or Bust Byway, which capitalizes on the successes and failures of American history, another one unique aspect of the byway is Caddo Lake, which straddles the state line between Texas and Louisiana. Covering approximately 30,000 acres, Caddo Lake is widely recognized for its complex and diverse range of plant and animal life.
Some 20,000 acres of Caddo Lake and its wetlands have been designated a Wetland of International Importance under the provision of the Ramsar Convention, an intergovernmental environmental treaty established in 1971 by UNESCO. The Caddo Lake Ramsar site is one of only 40 sites in the United States to be so designated.
As evidenced by the Ramsar designation of Caddo Lake for its special habitat, the entire length of the Boom or Bust Byway is known as Sportsman’s Paradise. People from around the globe come to this part of Louisiana to enjoy the unparalleled outdoor recreation opportunities. Lakes brimming with fish, refreshing rivers, rolling hills, scenic bayous, the Boom or Bust Byway truly is a haven for those who love the great outdoors.
With the state parks, national wildlife management areas, refuges, forest and national recreational areas, the Boom or Bust Byway offers a robust outdoor recreation opportunity for camping, boating, tubing, fishing, bird watching, skiing, canoeing, kayaking, wildlife viewing, hiking, biking, picnicking and just plain enjoying the great outdoors to commune with nature. These vast recreation opportunities are mingled at many recreational sites and facilities found along the byway. These include, among many other local parks and recreational areas, Earl G. Williamson Park, adjacent to Caddo Lake, Black Bayou Lake and Robert A. Nance Park, the Red River and the North Caddo Recreation Area, Cypress Black Bayou Recreation Area, Bayou Bodeau Dam and Reservoir, Bayou Dorcheat at the Sikes Ferry Landing, Kisatchie National Forest Caney Lake Recreation Area and Louisiana State Park, Lake Claiborne.
The Boom or Bust Byway is a mecca for history and outdoor recreation buffs alike.