Life in Louisiana often means indulging in copious amounts of delicious food, glittery parties, and drinking and dancing until the sun comes up. But if you’re looking for a natural re-charge in between the debauchery, allow us to recommend 5 easy access, swampy day trips for a breath of fresh air.
Visit these places in the early morning hours for the best chance at spotting wildlife, and for having the boardwalk to yourself!
#1 Jean Lafitte National Historic Park & Preserve
A National Park Service site, this sprawling area of land has a few different access points. We suggest the trails of Barataria Preserve in Marrero. Once a hide-out for pirates, this area now has 4 main trails that link up to provide just over 2 miles of wilderness solace to city weary visitors. Alligator sitings are almost guaranteed here and hardwood trees, spooky and beautiful, hover overhead through sections to complete the swampy experience. On one early morning visit with a friend, we spotted a huddle of nutria cuddling in the marsh, 2 alligators, herons and a snake.
#2 Bayou Sauvage Ridge Trail
This area was severely blighted after Hurricane Katrina, an influx of salt water killed off many of the beautiful cypress trees that once wooded this 2/3 mile boardwalk trail. I was happy to be one of many volunteers to roll up shirtsleeves and plant sapling cypress trees with Bayou Rebirth in 2008. To witness the progress of renewal in this area is comforting and rewarding. The trail winds through bushy undergrowth where you are accompanied only by the rustling of hidden critters. An overlook resting spot once offered a view of an open lake great for bird watching, now new growth provides a backdrop of gorgeous grasses. Walk the gravel road back to the parking area for nice views of the bayou. More helpful information here.
#3 Fountainbleu State Park
In Mandeville, just on the other side of the causeway from New Orleans, this park has the longest trails and offers all sorts of outdoor fun including camping, swimming and fishing. The central area of the park (great for a picnic) is speckled with mature live oaks dripping with spanish moss. The boardwalk Nature Trail is my favorite for marshy views and photo opportunities (like this swimming gator). If you venture down the grassy path of the Hiking Trail, be sure to wear shoes that can get dirty as its often muddy. There is a cool hidden picnic nook on this trail and I’ve even run across a skiddish armadillo.
#4 Le Branche Wetland Watchers Park
This park is off the beaten path, harder to access and the trail is in the middle of a restoration project, but that’s all part of the charm and captures the genuine spirit of our region. That said, you’ll want to choose a reliable vehicle with high clearance to make it to the trailhead. I’ve walked the boardwalk and kayaked the waterways surrounding this park and both adventures were memorable escapes into the solitude of wilderness.
#5 Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center
If you’re in Baton Rouge, the Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center gives a brief reprieve from the hustle of traffic off of Bluebonnet Boulevard. Over a mile of gravel paths and boardwalks link varied habitats such as the cypress-tupelo swamp, beech-magnolia and hardwood forests. My favorite part might actually be the exhibit building where you can stare live animals straight in the eye and practice your snake and bird identification.
Take your Tchoup Industries pack on a walk through the wilderness, and share your experience with us by tagging #TchoupTravels!
writing & photos by Patti Dunn