Touring the Louisiana Swamps
While New Orleans gets a lot of attention as a tourist hub in the southern United States, there’s more to Louisiana than “the big easy.” The city played host to about 10 million visitors in 2015, which made up approximately one-third of all visitors to the state. However, those who want to do more than just city-walks, parties, and parades should consider getting out and exploring the bayou.
Louisiana is wet. The state has about 40% of the country’s wetlands and its biggest city is largely located below sea level. Louisiana also has roughly 8,000 square miles of estuaries/marshes/swamps and 11,000 square miles of floodplains. So how do you go about enjoying these watery wonderlands? By getting on the water, of course.
Louisiana is loaded with swamp tours, river tours, and marsh exploration trips, often done by kayak. A kayak swamp tour allows guests to intimately interact with the natural beauty of a swamp or bayou area. While propelling yourself in a kayak isn’t as easy as riding a boat being driven by someone else, they’re easy to maneuver and allow you to go places that you simply can’t go in a tour boat. In lots of cases, people on kayak tours will see alligators, otters, deer, waterfowl, and much more.
In truth, kayak tours aren’t just in the distant swamplands of Louisiana. While the Bayou Bartholomew is the world’s longest bayou, stretching almost 400 miles between Louisiana and Arkansas — and offering kayak tours to those who end up in northern Louisiana — kayak tours sometimes start on city rivers as well. While those in New Orleans invariably go to bayous and wildlife refuge areas, other cities like Chicago offer simple river kayak tours.
Touring on the water around New Orleans can be a great way to spend some time on a vacation, as until you’re there, it’s hard to realize just how close to these natural areas the city actually is. Wildlife management areas, wildlife preservation areas, and rivers surround the city and provide the lifeblood for the city’s history. Without the Mississippi River, New Orleans wouldn’t exist as it does now. Just know that if you’re one of the approximately 30 million people who visit Louisiana every year, there’s more to the city and state than the French quarter, ghost tours, and Mardi Gras. Get out and explore nature.