Water, water everywhere! That pretty much sums up southern LA. Over the years as we drove across massive bodies of water exemplifying our preconceived idea of swamp land, Har & I promised ourselves we would one day take a swamp tour. This was the year!
Maxie's RV park in Broussard, LA was the park we chose to stay in again this year. Upon our arrival we informed our host we wanted to go on a swamp tour and his immediate response was, "Have I got the man for you!" And so it was, after one quick phone call, we had a date to meet Bryan Champagne (nice Acadian name) Saturday afternoon. Turns out Bryan runs a business from a shabby/picturesque little building situated on one of the most popular lake/swamps in the area. We were part of a tour group, numbering 16, who climbed aboard a low, square nosed aluminum boat complete with comfortable swivel chairs for each of us. Our guide was a black man with a wry sense of humour and a deep southern accent! He expertly guided the quiet running boat through the labyrinth of cypress trees all the time talking and pointing out interesting things. Because he is in the swamp every day his eyes were much keener than our tourist eyes thereby allowing him to call our attention to various birds, turtles, water plants, AND alligators! The first one we saw was so docile most of us figured it was a decoy planted for gullible tourists but nope ... it was the real thing. It let us get about 10 feet from it before SPLASH it was gone. Boy, can they move quickly!!
We saw several of the ugly things and they all reacted the same way. According to the guide, being cold blooded creatures, the gators like to stretch out on a log to warm up while they digest their food. He gave us some interesting facts ... like a gator grows in length approximately one foot a year; the distance from the nose to the hind leg is the same length as the tail; a female gator can lay up to 150 eggs at one time in a "gator hole" which is approximately 50 feet long and one foot deep which she digs in the mud and shallow water close to soil; fire ants and other gators are the number one predators of the babies; a female can determine the sex of the egg by how long she sits on it to keep it warm ... to create a male it takes longer; the mother gator looks after the surviving babies for one year; a female has to reach 6 years of age before she can lay eggs; the only meat sold for eating is harvested from the tail, legs and jaw. Most importantly, according to a man who makes his living taking tourists out to view alligators, they are not vicious ... "crocodiles are the mean ones and they're in Florida". You can believe it or not! But we did see people kayaking, others picnicking on a raft, plus the guide said that water skiing is a big sport on the lake so......
|One quick flip and he's gone!|
The day we decided to move on to another part of the state the weatherman was predicting heavy rainfall beginning in the afternoon bringing with it a drastic drop in temperature. Because we wanted to drive 125 miles to the next park, we elected to stay put one more day in Broussard and not run the risk of "pulling" in the rain ... or setting up in a downpour. So we visited a welcome centre we had been told about in the Atchafalaya Basin . We watched a short movie about the swamp, looked at lots of pictures and artifacts/primitive folk art, got burdened down with pamphlets and advice for things to visit in the area (by the enthusiastic/knowledgeable greeter) then elected to travel the 30 miles back to the trailer via back roads. YIKES!! We got caught in the predicted torrential rain. Twice we had to pull into deserted parking lots because the windshield wipers couldn't keep up. Over the years the roads have been so well travelled the pavement was worn into ruts which quickly filled with water causing spray to splash up as high as the windshield as we drove through it reducing visibility even more. In several places little flash floods washed streams of water and soil across the road. Quite an interesting drive home! Then once we reached our destination ... it stopped. On the up side ... all the pollen and dust was washed off the truck and trailer and there were no leaks anywhere!
|One of the larger boats we saw|
|Raised trailer with add on porch|
|Note wheels for easy towing|
For example, on the way to a big expensive marina we passed several places we jokingly called, "Louisiana highrises". One raised trailer still had the wheels on it ... just in case the owners ever wanted to tow it again, I guess.
Have you ever watched the television show "Swamp People"? The stars of that show live in Houma ... the area we were exploring. Much to Harwood's disappointment we didn't find where they film the show, nor did we meet Jay and R.J. However, we encountered some real swamp people one day who were probably more accommodating to us ignorant tourists than the TV stars would have been.
While out driving one afternoon we noticed vehicles parked along both sides of the road. We couldn't identify any reason for them to be pulled over until a particular group caught our eye. It seemed to be a young family ... the youngest children playing alongside the truck while older siblings and parents were working the edge of the bush with long wooden poles. Fishing rods? No, seemingly more like shovel handles. As we travelled a bit further we noticed a man about our age hunkered down behind his tailgate while a woman stood nearby holding one of the mysterious poles. We were in luck! There was a place for us to pull over. We quickly hopped out of the truck and approached the couple introducing ourselves as "curious Canadians". What we learned!! They were catching crawfish ... a southern delicacy. The man was busy baiting his nets. He grabbed a big handful of stuff (turned out to be fish guts and a large chunk of rotten meat), placed it in the centre of a 12 inch square mesh net then gave the net a quick flip so that it wrapped around itself in order to prevent the bait from falling out. He invited us to watch him as he set the loaded net. By placing this concoction on the end of the long wooden pole his wife had been holding he was able stand at the edge of the bush line to extend and lower the net into some muddy water. Once the net was situated, he used the pole to stir up the water so the crawfish couldn't see the white mesh ... otherwise they would be too smart to get caught! As I trotted behind him hoping for photo ops he glanced down at my sandal clad feet and said, "You best not come too close, ma'am. There's lots of snakes 'round here." Which would explain his white wellingtons! Needless to say, Har & I kept a watchful eye on the ground as we followed our guide while he proceeded to check the rest of his nets. Using the pole, he adeptly retrieved each net, opened it up and dumped the unsuspecting crawfish into a big blue plastic tub which boasted a length of polypropylene rope for a handle. (It was a muti-purpose tub as when we first arrived he was reaching into same tub for his bait. A little rinse with the nearby water had it ready for it's next purpose.) The tub slid quietly and smoothly behind as he pulled it from net to net. Over the course of the three hours he had been there he estimated a total catch of approximately 15 pounds of crawfish. Considering the market value of $2.75/lb he was well pleased with his afternoon efforts and we were well pleased to have been introduced to the bounty, and dangers, of a back road Louisiana bog.
|A real swamp person|