January, 2012. We’re Louisiana Swamp People – for Two Hours

Posted on January 20, 2012

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How could anyone visit Louisiana and not take a swamp tour?

Not us, that’s for sure.

The swamps and bayous of lower Louisiana are interesting both from an aesthetic and ecological standpoint and because the lives of the people who live there – Cajun or not – are intertwined with the cycles of the swamp.

We took a two-hour tour with Brian Champagne out of Lake Martin near Breaux Bridge.  It was an overcast but warm day, which turned out to be a just-right day.

Brian is a born-and-bred Cajun, speaks Cajun French, and has lived his whole life on the swamps and bayous of lower Louisiana. He was a wealth of information, explaining the terminology of the wetlands.

Swamps, according to Brian, are wetlands where large areas are periodically flooded by shallow bodies of water. There will be a large number of dry-land protrusions on which vegetation grows.  The swamp we traveled through was heavily covered with Tupelo Gum and Cyprus trees, duck weed, and other water-loving vegetation.

A bayou, on the other hand, refers to a slow-moving stream or river that changes level due to the tides. Bayous are usually brackish in nature – consisting of water that is not quite salt, not quite fresh.   Both are nurseries and living rooms for a wide variety of birds, animals and aquatic life.

They are beautiful in an eerie kind of way – wild, and primitive in nature, even just a short distance from shore.

And, thanks to the unusually warm weather, we saw alligators in the swamp.  Two of them, in fact.

They were sluggish and entirely uninterested in us; partly because their swollen bellies indicated they’d eaten well the previous night.

Also, this time of year they should be hibernating – hunkered down in their mud burrows. The warmth of the sun had drawn them out, and was interrupting what should be their quiet time.

We also saw many, many different swamp birds – egrets, anhinga, cormorants, herons, spoonbills. Hunters pursue ducks and deer in these swamps, and they are full of crawfish and other aquatic life.

Duck blind

55-gal. steel drum used as a deer stand. Our guide said it was last used in the 1970's.

Later in the week, we took a long drive to Pierre Part, home to Troy and Jacob Landry who star in the History Channel series “Swamp People”.

Pierre Part was founded by Acadian French settlers, and most of its 3000+ inhabitants today are of French extraction.   French has been taught to all students in Acadian Louisiana since the late 1960’s in an effort to maintain this connection with the area’s Cajun culture and history.

Pierre Part is not too much to look at.  Situated on the Belle River east of the huge Atchafalaya Basin, it appears people depend on the swamps and bayous and lakes for much of their livelihood.  At least that’s what the piles of crawfish traps and serious swamp and fishing boats along the roads seem to indicate.

It is a mix of houseboats tied up to the riverbank, trailers, nice homes, not-so-nice homes, shacks, new commercial buildings, falling down old commercial buildings, mom-and-pop businesses, and chain dollar stores.

We stopped at Troy’s gas station, took a look at the now-deserted dock where hunters sell alligators during the season, and had some great local food in Landry’s Restaurant – maybe owned by a relative, maybe not. Pierre Part has NOT gone Hollywood, so you’d never know if it was.

That was about it.  The lady on duty at Troy’s gas station/convenience store told us he was out of town right then, but assured us that when he came home he’d be down at the station meeting and greeting, and maybe even selling a little gas.

See ya later, alligator.

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