Fort Livingston – Grand Isle, Louisiana - Atlas Obscura

Fort Livingston

Grand Isle, Louisiana

Pirates had to be ousted from the land where this now ruined Louisiana fortress was built. 


The ruins of Fort Livingston on Louisiana’s Grand Terre Island look like they may have once belonged to a pirate’s base, but in actuality the government had to drive some pirates off before they could build the once impenetreble waterside defense in the first place. 

The barrier islands off the Louisiana coast have had a long history of pirates taking up residence in between their illicit missions and the little spot of land known as Grand Terre was no different. It was home to a group of scurvy sea dogs under the command of famed pirate captain Jean Lafitte. However when the government decided to beef up their coastal defenses in the early 1800s the mateys were driven off. 

Free of the criminal element, construction of Fort Livingston began on the island in 1834 but was interrupted just a few years later when the Confederacy seceded over their right to continue using enslaved laborers. Much of the fortification was in place however and the site came under the control of the Confederate Army who hunkered down behind the unfinished walls. After New Orleans was taken the Confederate soldiers left and the site was given over to a skeleton crew before being completely abandoned in 1872 when the fort was heavily damaged by a hurricane.

Despite over a hundred years of continued storms, the ruins of the fort remain to this day. The fort is in decent shape considering its age and lots of wildlife live in and around the fort. There are multiple rooms visitors can access across two levels of the fort, although it can only accessed via boat and is a treacherous site both on the water and in the crumbling fort ruins. 

Know Before You Go

Getting here requires a boat of some sort. I have used a kayak each time I have visited. You must cross Barataria Pass, which has a lot of boat traffic. If you go via kayak be sure to avoid any passing shrimp boats. You can kayak to the north west point of the western portion of the island, where there is an opening in the rock jetty. You can pull right up to the fort and enter from any opening on the western, north western and southern entrances.

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