I used to be indecisive…

…but now I'm not so sure

bayous and swamps


When we were visiting New Orleans, Louisiana earlier this year we took a tour on the Honey Island Swamp, one of the least altered swamps in the country.  My knowledge of swamps and bayous was mainly restricted to The Carpenters’ song Jambalaya*, in which they sang about eating jambalaya, crawfish pie and having ‘fun on the bayou’.  So, with the song running through my head, we travelled by coach to the place where the tour boats were waiting for us.

Hopes were high that we might see some wildlife, so to get us started, at the tour office, they had a sculpture of an alligator (big enough for a person’s head to fit into its mouth) – maybe to let us see what might be waiting for us out on the water!

alligator sculpture

After admiring that it was soon time to go down to the Pearl River and board our small boat.  There were only 8 of us on the boat plus our captain/tour guide which was excellent as it gave us plenty of opportunities to ask questions, and the small boat meant we could get into some of the narrower bayous and closer to the wildlife (if there was any!).

Old Pearl RiverFrom the set off point there was a short journey of a mile or so along the river which took us to what was referred to by our captain as a camp.  I imagined that would be tents, or roughly made temporary shacks, complete with a campfire, but it was houses which people have mainly as summer, or fishing, homes.

Old Pearl River

House on Old Pearl River

The disabled parking sign made me smile – I wasn’t expecting there to be a problem with parking outside this house.

Turning off the main river we went into the maze of bayous, which are very slow moving sections of water.


along the bayouAlong the bayous there were houses which are not permanent.  Some of them are kept afloat on large plastic drums, and look quite precarious, but are lived in all year round.  This little dog had a lot to say for itself as we passed by!

House boat and friendly dogMoving along slowly, we eventually came to the swamp areas.  I always thought a swamp was marshy, muddy ground, but it is a flooded forest.  In this swamp the trees are mainly Bald Cypress with Spanish moss hanging from many of them. One of the trees is classed as a monumental tree because of its age and size.  The boat engine was switched off now and we drifted peacefully through the most amazing landscapes.swamp


bayoutreesWe were always on the lookout for wildlife and our guide explained that it was still really a bit on the chilly side to see turtles or alligators, as the temperature needed to be a bit higher before they would come out and warm themselves on the fallen tree trunks.  Up to this point we had seen nothing more than two small turtles, but soon something much more entertaining was about to appear!

Our boat came to a halt and we became aware of some movement in the trees and a racoon appeared.  It had heard us coming, and knew that some food might be in store for it.  Our guide had a large bag of marshmallows in the boat, and a long stick, which he normally uses to tempt alligators out of the water. This racoon loves marshmallows!

racoon on the bayou

racoon enjoying marshmallowsI am in two minds about whether this is the right thing to do or not, but it certainly entertained us.

In another part of the swamp we saw a family of wild boar.  They didn’t seem perturbed by the boat and people, but didn’t approach it in the way the racoon had.

wild boar in the swampAfter drifting round in the swamp for a little longer, we came back out onto the main river and began to make our way back to our starting point.  By this time the sun had been out for a little longer, so things had warmed up enough for a couple of alligators to come out.  Apparently this one was just a small one, at about 5 feet long, but it was big enough for me!  Can you see it?

alligator on Old Pearl River

alligator in the sun on the riverWe were told that the length of an alligator in feet is approximately equal to the length of its snout in inches – from its eyes to the tip of its nose.  I wasn’t about to get close with my measuring tape to find out how true this is!

Of all the interesting things we saw and did in New Orleans, this was possibly my favourite.  We didn’t see as much wildlife as we had hoped but it was fascinating, and so relaxing just drifting along on the water.

I’m linking this with Jo’s Monday Walk which I hope she will allow – it’s not technically a walk, but it’s the nearest thing you can get to a walk on the bayou.

* If you are not sure which song I mean, here it is.


24 thoughts on “bayous and swamps

  1. Looks like a lovely outing minus the whole alligator thing. Alligators are high on my list of OMG GET ME OUT OF HERE things, but am happy enough to see pix taken by braver souls than I!

  2. Such an atmospherically strange place. Thanks for the tour.

  3. Given how much Jo loves boats I think you are pretty safe with this! Were there many mossies around? And I think your alligator photo is adorable – look, he even smiled for you 🙂

  4. Great wildlife photos Elaine.

    I have a recipe called “Creole Jambalaya” which I really like, but my girls dislike intensely. (although I do wonder if they just say that because they know I like it and they are being contrary) They call it “Creole Jumble” – how rude!

  5. Well, I’m in a pretty good mood so I think I’ll allow this ‘walk’, Elaine. I’d hate you to get your feet wet, or even worse, your toes nipped by the croc! I never did know what a bayou was, even though I’ve sung along many a time, so thanks for furthering my education 🙂

  6. This looks like a fascinating trip. I would have been taking care to keep my hands out of the water, just in case. Did you need plenty of insect repellent?

  7. Pingback: Jo’s Monday walk : a surprise, at Estoi | restlessjo

  8. I’m surprised that there were no mosquitoes, as my first thought was what an unpleasant journey this might be – no matter how interesting! love the idea of having a fishing home right on the water like these.

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