Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve – Barataria Preserve, Louisiana

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve – Barataria Preserve, Louisiana

When I think of trails in a nature preserve, I tend to imagine encroaching branches over a muddy or perhaps gravel path that meanders through the woods.  At the Barataria Reserve which is managed by the National Parks Service of the Department of the Interior, the paths that I was on ranged from just such narrow dirt trails to the above new composite material, elevated pathway of the Palmetto Trail through the Palmettos. Some such as the one below were far from being smooth and straight.  Generally,  though, the paths, whether rustic or paved, were nice to follow as they wandered their way through the varied terrain of the preserve.

The Barataria Preserve is located a short distance from Marrero, Louisiana (about 20 miles from New Orleans) and consists of forest lands, bayous, swamp and raised ridges. In some locations, the Spanish moss hanging from the live oaks provides a picturesque but spooky surrounding for a hike in the woods. (Location)


Just to add a little suspense and excitement, there is often an alligator cruising along close to the trail.

In the one instance, a group of us were standing on an observation point and talking about how we hadn’t seen many alligators when someone looked down below our feet and noticed that there was an alligator a lot closer than we would have guessed.
The alligators weren’t the only dangerous critters that we met along the paths. At one location we met a couple of park wardens out on a patrol near the junction of the Bayou Coquille Trail and the Marsh Overlook Trail. They were kind enough to stop and talk to us about a snake that we had seen but couldn’t identify. After the wardens had left us and the snake that we had been asking about had disappeared into the grass before I could photograph it, I looked at the grass near where the wardens had been standing and noticed a slight movement. Turs out that they were standing very close to a Cottonmouth without knowing. No Wardens were injured in the photographing of this Cottonmouth :-).

With all of these rather nasty critters living in or around the waterways of the Barataria Preserve, I question the safety of paddling along in a small kayak but this chap assured me that he spent many hours paddling in the bayous and marsh land of Barataria without concern or incident.

Beautiful country when looked at from a dry spot and I imagine that it would be equally exciting to see from the cockpit of a kayak. Perhaps next time!

For those who like interesting shapes, the Cypress provide plenty of those.

For someone like me who is allergic to Poison Ivy, one of the other dangers of walking along the Barataria ridges such as along the Twin Canals Trail is the danger of brushing up against some of the noxious poison ivy that inhabits those ridges both as a shrubby growth and as a climbing vine.

Alligators and snakes weren’t the only interesting things to see along the trails. At one location, Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) dragonflies supplied the entertainment and a group walking ahead of us spotted the frog and and the Whistling Ducks notified of us of their presence with their telltale quacking sounds.


When we arrived at the parking lot, this wren had decided to break into song to announce the coming sunset.

When I travel south, I am always surprised at how much of a problem the Water Hyacinth can be as it grows rapidly and clogs waterways. In my part of the world, individual plants are sold each Spring for a dollar or two each to backyard pond owners who appreciate their quick growth, long dangling roots and lavender flowers.

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, New Orleans, Louisiana

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, New Orleans, Louisiana

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, New Orleans, Louisiana

When I had been in New Orleans on a previous occasion with my wife, we had considered visiting the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas (location) but opted instead to take the Canal Street ferry ride across the Mississippi River to Algiers Point. For those who are visiting the French Quarter or the Harrah’s Casino, the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is a very short walk and is close to the shops along Canal Street and the Shops at Canal Place.

On this visit to New Orleans, I decided that the alligators waiting for me in the swamps and bayous would have to wait until after I had had time to tak e a look inside the impressive building housing the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. Once inside the doors, the visitor finds a multilevel arrangement of exhibits in ponds surrounded by tropical forest as well as multiple aquariums housing both fresh water and salt water creatures.

The main feature is the tunnel under the fish. Always interesting to walk throguh such tunnels and view the fish from all angles.

Once I had taken a look at the rest of the exhibits I walked back outside into the sunshine and was going to take a few more photos of a certain car but alas, it was no longer there.

Oh well, the sun was still shining and the sky was still blue, so off I went to explore more of the sights and sounds of New Orleans.

Grand Isle, Louisiana

Grand Isle, Louisiana

On this trip to New Orleans, I had decided that I might like to take a drive down to Grand Isle, Louisiana and look out across the Gulf of Mexico while standing on Louisiana’s only significant beach. I wasn’t sure what the road conditions would be like since I had read somewhere that I would encounter construction along the way. It was a long ways (120 miles) but I hoped to find a few interesting things to photograph along the way.

A bit like Pt. Pelee National Park in Ontario, Grand Isle is a mecca for bird watchers during the Spring migration. I was even so optimistic that I brought my bathing suit. Didn’t get my bathing suit wet – cool enough that I put on a jacket, and we were a bit early for the warbler migration. Our timing was close to right but due to the cool weather, the warblers were a bit behind in their migration schedule. Had a good time, nonetheless, and learned a great deal more about the Mississippi River delta and its many bayous.
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New Orleans, City Park, Botanical Gardens

Better Swamps and Garden Club - New Orleans

New Orleans, City Park, Botanical Gardens

The first weekend that I was in New Orleans (April 10-11, 2010), the botanical garden area of City Park was hosting the Annual Spring Garden show showcasing the various garden clubs and local vendors of all sorts of garden related plants and ornaments. I decided that April 11th, I would go to the show. An eclectic mix for certain.
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New Orleans Train Garden, City Park, New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans Train Garden, City Park, New Orleans, Louisiana

Tucked away in the back corner of the Botanical Gardens at New Orleans City Park (location) is a little surprise for anyone who loves model trains or a bit of history.  The New Orleans Train Garden has a lot of both. For those who like to look at architecture and imagine what life might have been like many years ago, there are models of various New Orleans Buildings scattered around the model train track layout.

Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop (Duroche Castillon House), 941 Bourbon Street circa 1795
Jean Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop

 

 

The track and most of the rolling stock of this large gauge model railroad layout was above the high water mark so, for the most part, escaped the ravages of Hurricane Katrina and the severe New Orleans flooding that followed. The railroad is run by volunteers so it is important to check when the trains are running if you want to have the most fun but just the layout itself is fascinating with all of the model buildings to look at.

  

   

Bayou Sauvage – New Orleans, Louisiana

Bayou Sauvage – New Orleans, Louisiana

While I was visiting City Park in New Orleans, I dropped in to listen to one of the lectures.  As it would happen, the topic was the geological formation of ridges and bayous along the banks of the Mississippi River.  It was a very interesting discussion especially since I had already planned on traveling out of town to Bayou Sauvage later in the day and the lecture focused on Bayou Sauvage.

I had been to Bayou Sauvage on a previous visit to New Orleans, but on this particular occasion, I decided to walk one of the boardwalks maintained by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Bayou Sauvage supports a number of different types of plants and along the ridges it supports various wooded areas. After walking around the boardwalk we followed a ridge that led further out into the marsh.

While we walked along the trails numerous birds flew over the marshland including Egrets, Herons, Mockingbirds, Cormorants, Turkey Vultures and even a Bald Eagle.

 

The marshland supported a number of other creatures form the size of the Anole that scurried over the downed logs to the Alligators that cruised along the ditch.

 

 

Irish Bayou, New Orleans, Louisiana

Irish Bayou, New Orleans, Louisiana

On a previous visit to the Irish Bayou area, I had the opportunity to see plenty of wildlife along the road including quite a few alligators up close and personal. On this trip though we only saw a couple of alligators drifting quietly in the waterway alongside the road and a few birds circling overhead form time to time. Any birds that we saw were generally too far away for photographing. There was a large engineering reconstruction project underway on the levee at the time of this visit and that may have had an effect on both the water levels and the distribution patterns of the wildlife.

Still on my list of places to visit the next time around. Lots of potential for wildlife sightings but not this particular time around.

French Quarter Festival, New Orleans

French Quarter Festival, New Orleans

They say that there is someone playing jazz music somewhere in New Orleans 24 hours a day and 365 days of the year.  Not certain if that is true but when we were out walking along the banks of the Mississippi River it was easy to hear and find the stage for the French Quarter Festival. We arrived in time for the last set of the evening’s performance. The festival was sponsored by the local Louisiana Abita Brewery so a wide variety of refreshments were available of a particular brand -:).

The local constabulary was present to ensure that nothing got out of hand.

The group that was on stage when we arrived was “Big Sam’s Funky Nation”  They were certainly putting on a powerful performance well appreciated by a large audience occupying the grassed area in front of the stage.

It wasn’t long before the music was over so, after that, we headed over to the famous Bourbon Street where we definitely were not alone and where music continued on for many hours more!

 

 

As we wandered along Bourbon Street, it seemed that every open door was sending music out into the street. The overall effect was interesting, but not necessarily musical, but step inside for any one of the jazz sessions and the entertainment was wonderful.

 

New Orleans and the French Quarter, a very interesting place to visit.

Eventually, we headed back to our hotel, “W New Orleans French Quarter” (Starwood Hotels member) where the fire was still lit in the inner court yard. (Hotel website)

Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans, Louisiana

Where there are dreams there is hope.


Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans, Louisiana

During this visit to New Orleans, I spent an afternoon in the lower ninth ward photographing the general area and gathering specific photos for a volunteer organization working to raise funds and rebuild the community. (location) Hard to imagine what the community was like before Hurricane Katrina and still hard to imagine what the rebuilt community will look like when all of the current projects reach fruition.

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Bayou Segnette State Park, New Orleans, Louisiana

Bayou Segnette State Park, New Orleans, Louisiana

One of those small parks that are easy to get to if you know the way :-). It also helps if the bridge isn’t under construction! On this particular day, I got stuck in traffic and got to sit next to an operational pile driver for what seemed like forever. It gave me a chance to photograph some of the activity on the Mississippi River but I would have been happier with a little less noise.

I eventually got to the park before dark :-).  The Bayou Segnette State Park offers camping, a picnic area, boat launch facilities and a significant area of open parkland.  The Corps of Engineers were doing some levy work and access to that area was restricted to my walk along the waterways had to be shortened. I saw a number of birds while I was at the park including an immature bald eagle but none were really close enough to photograph well. It was still fairly early in the season but some flowers were beginning to add colour to the landscape.

I walked along the waterway until I reached the No Access point and then turned back to sit for awhile beside the waterway and just observe what was going by. I was rather hoping that I might see an alligator or two but the fellow who was fishing from the dock area told me that it was still a bit cool for the Alligators to come out to this location.

I had hoped to see a few dragonflies and the Eastern Pondhawks were at the park but difficult to photograph due to the relatively strong breeze that was blowing at the time.  One pond plant was playing host to a gathering of damselflies.

Later in the day, I drove around looking for other things to photograph and a couple of Black Vultures and a Crow were kind enough to stick around for  long enough for me to get a shot.