I've always been told that Monkey Hill in the Audubon Zoo is New Orleans' highest peak, but a few years ago I discovered Laborde Mound, the "mountain" in City Park. What are the origins of these two hills, and which is taller?
Some people make mountains out of molehills, but here in New Orleans, we make them out of such things as riprap and sand.
Monkey Hill has the distinction of being New Orleans' oldest "mountain," but it is no longer tallest. This honor goes to the "mountain" located in the Couturie Forest and Arboretum that fronts Harrison Avenue in City Park. Its official name is Laborde Lookout, named after Ellis Laborde, a longtime general manager of the park. At 53 feet tall, it is the current "King of the Mountains" in the Big Easy.
Monkey Hill got its start in 1933 with New Deal funds. The story goes that the Works Progress Administration brought in sand to create the 15-foot mountain to give the children of flat New Orleans the experience of a hill. Just about everyone who grew up here has memories of rolling, running, riding, or even sledding -- yes, there were times when we had enough snow to do that -- down the hill and having more fun than a barrel of monkeys.
Recently, Monkey Hill had a makeover. Now sitting atop the old hill is a neat new five-level, 20-foot-tall treehouse that gives parents and kids a monkey's-eye view of our splendid Audubon Zoo. There is also a series of ramps wrapping around a pecan tree, a rope bridge, bronze lion sculptures and wading pools.
Laborde Lookout, with its observation platform at the top, was created out of riprap from the construction of Interstate 610. Unlike Monkey Hill, this artificial mountain is in a more natural setting -- a 33-acre preserve of a large stand of mature mixed hardwoods. In the 1930s, Rene Couturie, one of the park's board members, provided the funds for park improvements. Sixty thousand trees were purchased and planted.
For a while the trees grew naturally and were generally ignored. Eventually, uncaring folks started dumping trash in the forest. But all was made right in 2001, when members of the Louisiana National Guard and many dedicated volunteers worked with City Park staff to clean it up. They created more than a mile of trails, a deck, an amphitheater and six education stations. Walking the trails, you will get an education as you encounter 45 different species of trees, all labeled with their common and scientific names.
Who ever thought that flat New Orleans would be able to boast of not one but two impressive "mountains"?
Is there any truth to the story that a plane crashed in Lake Pontchartrain and is still in the lake?
wish I could deny it, but it's the truth. The terrible crash happened on Feb. 25, 1964. The Eastern Air Lines four-engine DC8 jetliner plunged into the lake carrying 51 passengers and seven crew members. Flight 304 was on its second leg from Mexico City to New York by way of New Orleans, Atlanta, and Washington D.C. Many of the passengers were vacationers who were on their way home.
Leaving New Orleans International Airport at 2:01 a.m., the plane had a routine takeoff. Even though the sky was overcast, there was no rain. The plane disappeared from the radar screen in the control tower almost immediately, and about nine minutes later it disintegrated and went into the lake about 4 to 5 miles east of the Causeway and 6 miles due south of Mandeville. No distress signal was heard.
The search began immediately with Coast Guard planes, helicopters, and patrol boats frantically looking for survivors. It was at dawn when the location was determined, marked by an oil slick and debris. There were no signs of life.
This was the first major air crash involving a plane taking off from New Orleans International and, at the time, the worst air tragedy in the state's history