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.