On our third day in New Orleans, we headed to Slidell, LA, to visit the swamp. Many swamp tours exist in the area and some in Lafayette as well. After reading extensively online about the various tours, I decided to take Dr. Wagner’s Honey Island tour early in the morning. Depending on traffic, it is about a 3/4 to one hour drive from downtown New Orleans. For at least half this time, you are driving on a bridge across Lake Pontchartrain.
This little swampy area is right next to the small cabin where they sell alligator souvenirs and you pick up your ticket. This place requires cash.
After boarding the boat which holds about 20 passengers, we headed down the Pearl River. This view looks upriver.
Many expensive houses rise above the river banks. You can see the for sale sign. According to the boat captain, the fancier ones cost about one million. However, for all the elegant houses, there are more just the opposite and close by.
Like this one which appears boarded up. Some appeared abandoned, some in decent repair, some recently used. When we asked how high the water rose during Katrina, we were told that it would be above the roof of a house like this. The tours were abandoned for over a year after the hurricane except for the occasional hurricane cleanup crew who wanted a tour.
This is one of the nice houses along the river, modern, large, well kept.
We saw a large blue heron, wings outstretched, sunning itself on a large tree stump. When the captain tried to get closer, it slowly lifted off and flew away before I could get a photo.
We turned to the right off the river and began to see alligators of all sizes. Because of harvesting for skins, meat, etc., few really large ones remain. More common is 8-10 footers.
Even the boat captain was astonished at the number of alligators we saw. They seemed to be everywhere and one exceedingly large male followed us deeper into the swamp.
Although the water flows rather rapidly on the river, once in the swamp, the water is very quiet. Many different types of trees live here including cypress. Most of the trees are deciduous and lose their leaves in the winter. I was extremely surprised to learn how cold it can get here, below freezing, sometimes even down in the teens. However, the captain said it always rises above freezing during the day.
Most of the really large cypress have been cut down in the past for lumber. Now this is a reserve. The tree on the left is really large and a lot of moss hangs from it.
Hogs, like these, are not native anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. It seems feral hogs can live anywhere. We also saw raccoons. The trees and other vegetation are so dense during the summer, wildlife could be a few feet away and remain unseen.
The swamp possesses a wild, magical beauty.