SPIDERS, SNAKES & GATORS, OH MY!

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Most people who know me, know that I was pretty much a tomboy when I was a kid. Growing up in northern Florida, I much preferred climbing trees, swinging from ropes and shootin’ BB guns. In fact someone gave me a doll one Christmas and I didn’t even know what to do with it. I remember being horrified. I usually ran around barefoot in a pair of shorts. I only started wearing shirts when it was pointed out to me that there indeed were differences between boys and girls and some of my differences were starting to be noticed by the boys. Thus I was dragged kicking and screaming into puberty.

But despite my tomboy ways when it came to creepy crawly things I was more like “Mary Lou” in Jim Stafford’s popular 1974 ballad – “I Don’t Like Spiders and Snakes” – so I was a little apprehensive when someone invited me on my first swamp tour a few years back.

Growing up in Florida and living most of my adult life in Louisiana means I am very familiar with swamps… They are teeming with creepy crawly things — and some of those things are quite big enough to turn me into a lunchtime treat! Needless to say, I have pretty much avoided swamps – nothing to see here – move on please.

Boy was I wrong. A trip into a Louisiana swamp can be one of the most exciting and rewarding adventures you will ever make. You will find, as I most certainly did, that the swamp is actually a beautiful place, filled with exotic birds, incredible plants and mysterious creatures. It is also a delicate and fragile ecosystem that must be preserved and protected.

Long before the popular reality show “Swamp People” started a Louisiana Swamp Renaissance all across the country, I took my first swamp tour; a trip into the Atchafalaya Basin. The Atchafalaya Basin which encompasses more than one million acres is the largest river swamp in the United States.
Anyone who has ever traveled Interstate Highway 10 from Lafayette to Baton Rouge has ridden directly over it. But to really experience it, you have to get off the highway and take a swamp tour. The best place to do that is near the town of Henderson at a place called McGee’s Landing.

McGee’s Landing is easily accessible by both motorcycle and car. It features a first class restaurant and bar with authentic Cajun music on the weekends and it provides regular tour boat excursions into the vast swamp. Last week I posted a feature we did there five years ago. If you haven’t watched it you can see it here.

Since my first visit to McGee’s Landing more than five years ago I have been on a number of swamp and marsh tours throughout the Bayou State. I have taken air-boat rides and helped hatch alligators along the Creole Nature Trail in Cameron Parish; I have held baby gators in Jefferson Davis Parish where the theme is “Don’t Choot ‘em, Hold ‘em” — and I have even had a huge snake wrapped around my neck and seen a snapping turtle big as a bulldog near Houma, Louisiana.

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I still pretty much don’t like spiders and snakes or alligators for that matter, but I have come to love and appreciate the swamps where they live. They are beautiful, peaceful places where you can quickly escape the noise and clutter of the city. There is nothing more awe inspiring than a trip into a Louisiana swamp and with one of the many swamp tours now offered throughout the state you don’t even have to get your feet wet.

See you on the road, or in the swamp!

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Tee

~ by larider on June 4, 2014.

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