Louisiana Swamp

March 2007

In southwestern Louisiana just north of I-10 is a small town called Breaux Bridges.  There is little to distinguish the town other than the nearby swamp and a company called Cajun Swamp Tours.  The tour of the nearby swamp lasts about three hours and is utterly fascinating.




It is a typical cypress swamp with one exception.  Dikes have been built to contain the water so that the swamp doesn't dry up in the summer.  As a consequence of this, the population of birds, animals and reptiles is higher than it would be otherwise.  In an extreme drought, the area will start to dry up as it did a few years ago.  Most of the alligators died in that drought but the population has now recovered.





This Great White Egret is typical of literally hundreds we saw that day.  




There is very little dry land to walk on in the swamp.  Even if there were,  this fellow would discourage even the most ardent hiker.





One area was marked off as a bird sanctuary.  It was surrounded by yellow tape and "No Admittance" signs.  The white birds you see are Egrets.




A number of these duck blinds are visible in open areas.  They belong to local residents and were grandfathered in from before the area was protected.  This one even includes a covered boathouse.





Another alligator up close and personal.  The guide told us that you can estimate the length of an alligator in feet by the length in inches from snout to eye.  This one would be about 14 feet long.




Here  is another plentiful denizen of the swamp.  The guide called it a Nutria.  It is also sometime called a Coypu.  They were imported from South America in the 1930s for the fur farming industry.  They were released, either accidentally or on purpose, and rapidly spread through southern Louisiana.  At first they were welcomed as a way of controlling certain marsh weeds but as the population grew, the were causing more harm than good.  The number of Nutria in the swamp is dependent on the number of alligators since it is high on the alligator's preferred menu.



The guide told us that this alligator is called Crooked Jaw, for obvious reasons.  It seems that he lost a fight with another gator some years ago.  He nearly had his lower jaw torn off.  It is apparently still affecting his attitude since there were no other gators anywhere near him.

There are several tours available in the area.  I can't comment on the quality of any but the one we took.  The guide has lived his whole life in this area and has several college degrees to back up his native lore.  I can highly recommend this tour.