September 13, 2016

The scenic Louisiana Coast makes up more than 40 percent of our nation’s wetlands, thanks to the swamps, marshes, and bayous the crisscross the coast. The flora found here is unlike anywhere else in the world, and there are so many opportunities to get up close and personal with the herons, alligators, bald eagles, and other wildlife that call this corner of the U.S. home. Here are three ways to explore the Louisiana Coast: by boat, kayak, and foot.

Boat Tour Through the Marsh

Grosse Savanne Eco-tours offers marsh boat tours give you a close perspective on the flora and fauna of the Louisiana Coast. Located in what’s know affectionately as Louisiana’s Outback, your guide will take you through both fresh and salt water marshes, cypress swamps, native coastal prairies, and pine forest plantations. You can count on spotting countless alligators as you explore this one-of-a-kind ecosystem. Knowledgeable guides ensure educational and safe tours. Two-hour, half-day, and full-day eco-tours are available, as well as birding (both on land and in the marsh) and photography tours.

Kayak the Bayou

Step (carefully) aboard a kayak and paddle your way through the many waterways that wind along the Louisiana Coast. Bayou Adventure, an outfitter in St. Tammany Parish, offers both guided tours and independent rentals. One of the most popular launch sites here is Cane, which empties into Lake Pontchartrain and borders Fontainebleau State Park and Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge. Both areas are teeming with gators, herons, osprey, otters, egrets, and more. For an unforgettable experience, take an early evening guided tour so you can watch the sun set over Lake Pontchartrain before paddling back with headlamps to light the way.

Hike the Trails of Wildlife Refuges

If you prefer to explore the Louisiana coast on your own two feet, the area offers a wide range of nature trails, with most set on national wildlife refuges. Mandalay National Wildlife Refuge, a 4,419-acre refuge that includes both a freshwater marsh and a cypress-tupelo swamp, features a one-mile nature trail, perfect for families, that gives hikers a glimpse of gators and a wide variety of birds, too. The trail takes only about 45 minutes to hike round-trip.

For more experienced hikers, Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge has four hiking trails that snake through the 9,000-plus acre refuge. The Palmetto Trail is about two miles in length and was once an oilfield location that was returned to the wild in the 1950’s, while the Garden City Trail is approximately three miles long, one way, and encompasses a 300-foot boardwalk overlooking a cypress tupelo swamp. The Centerville Unit Trails, which allow hikers to choose everything from a  1/4- to a 2-mile hike, are established on old dikes created from sugar cane drainage ditches.

For more info on adventures in the Louisiana Coast, including info on area accommodations, visit Louisiana Tourism Coastal Coalition (LTCC).