Trophy Buck on the Run

| April 07, 2005

After driving through Northern ice and snow, the swamps of southern Louisiana can provide you with some warm family-style relief and face-to-face contact with some of America’s most unusual outdoor life.

And the chance to fish for unusual species, canoe through ancient land and maybe hunt gators.

But if it’s civilization rather than backcountry you want, there’s always fabled cities like New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Lafayette with their jambalaya, shrimp and gumbo, and of course there’s always jazz, blues and zydeco music to keep you jumping.

Many of the areas you can venture into are Spanish moss-draped, fragile ecosystems that are very little changed from the way they were in the days before Columbus reached the New World. You can find yourself lost among the alligators, snakes, egrets, herons, Cajun villages and Indian burial mounds. Black bear, red wolf and deer can be seen on occasion too. You might also find your way into the swamps of Barataria, where legend has it that pirate Jean Lafitte, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans who used it as a hideout, buried some of his plunder.

The watery land around New Orleans is so low that only one place in America is lower – Death Valley – and makes the city virtually an island. For fishermen, Louisiana is indeed, as the state license tags say, a sportsman’s paradise. You can catch bluegill, redear sunfish, largemouth bass, warmouth, alligator gar, flathead catfish, freshwater drum, and buffalo fish.

A company called Louisiana Swamp Tours offers everything from airboat tours to fishing trips for redfish and speckled trout in traditional Cajun backcountry. And if you want take a whole lot of family or some fellow drivers, they also have a big party boat that cruises these ancient wetlands.

Cypress Swamp Tours is based in a working Cajun fishing village, Bayou Segnette. Captain Nick’s Wildlife Safaris offers you the chance to fish either in the bayous and swamps or to sail out from the marshy coastline into the Gulf of Mexico for some of the bigger stuff.

If you go to Alligator Bayou you can see a green, moss-draped alligator swamp, a 700-year-old cypress tree with five-foot-tall knees (root above the water), and the spectacular Cypress Flats, a lake of lightning-burned cypress trees teeming with egrets, herons, ibis, cormorants and hundreds of bird species migrating along the Mississippi River flyway.

Dr. Paul Wagner’s Honey Island Swamp Tours provides ecologically themed tours of a rare piece of the swamp, a place also accessible by other tour companies. Honey Island, named for its honey bees, is 20 miles by five miles of bottomland timber barely touched by man.

There have been numerous reported sightings of a Bigfoot creature in these swamps, several in
the Honey Island area. Some witnesses claimed he was about seven feet tall and somewhere around 350 pounds.

Many of the tours give you a chance to dance – sometimes to traditional Cajun zydeco music. But if you want to hunt gators, come in September. It’s the only season.

For information on Louisiana and on tourism in the state, log on to Louisianatravel.com or Louisiana.com on the Net.

Louisiana Swamp Tours
1 888 30-SWAMP

Cypress Swamp Tours
1 888 554 8574

Captain Nick’s Wildlife Safaris
1 800 375 3474

Honey Island Swamp Tours
1 985 641-1769

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