Jan 16, 2013 - Countries, Louisiana, Travel, USA    9 Comments

Honey Island Swamp Tour

Today’s swamp tour was a bit of a disappointment, I’m afraid to say. I knew that January is the worst month for a swamp tour, but with the promised sunny weather for today, I thought that we’d still get to see a few interesting things. Instead, an Arctic front barreled in and the weather turned frigid and very overcast, just above freezing! We saw a lot of prey birds, such as hawks, egrets, and vultures, which was wonderful, but that’s it. I can at least say that I saw a Louisiana swamp in the dead of winter! 🙂

I chose to go on Dr. Wagner’s Honey Island Swamp Tour, just outside of Slidell, because it is offered in a more pristine and natural swamp and the focus of the tour is on ecology. A lot of the swamp tours are set in almost zoo-like preserves where the animals are tamed by feeding them marshmallows and/or happen on very large noisy boats that don’t really let you appreciate the natural setting.

The tour group was international and featured no fewer than five French Canadians, including myself, a couple from Cornwall, and another couple from Montreal. Our guide had a surprising amount to say in French, and with an excellent accent!

Our guide dispelled some misconceptions right off the bat. First of all, there are no mosquitoes in the swamp in the summer during the day because the dragonflies keep them at bay. Second, the air in a swamp is very clean, so it does not smell. People seem to go in expecting a putrid bog rather than a fresh flooded forest. Third, a bayou is nothing special and not exclusive to Louisiana. It’s just a native word that means slow moving body of water.

He gabbed about this and that in our tour through the swamp and up and down the Pearl River, showing off his rather impressive ornithological knowledge, but it was obvious that he was stretching his material very thin because the environs weren’t giving him much to work with.

My quest to see wild alligators must go on (I need to find a way to be in the US in the summer!), but I learned quite a bit about them. While they are confirmed maneaters, there have been very few deaths by alligator in the US and absolutely none in Louisiana. People have lost limbs, but that’s only because they antagonized the otherwise timid creatures. That surprised me!

The biggest threat to alligators is the great heron, which gobbles down the young when they are small.

Alligator blood crystallizes when the temps approach freezing, a fatal condition. So they slow down their metabolism and burrow under the mud to stay warm through the winter.

We spent very little time in the swamp because the water levels were so high that the guide could not be sure there were no underwater obstacles. So most of the tour was spent going up and down the Pearl River.

Much as the scenery was lovely, we were all glad to get back to base camp at the end of the two hours so we could thaw out!

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  • There is a “best” season for anywhere and it is too bad you missed the best time for the swamps. But there is always next year, or the next.

  • Croft, there’s no way I could come here in the summer unless I wanted to spend a winter in Canada because of the six months rule.

    I’m used to traveling in the off season. Sometimes it pays off (http://travelswithmiranda.uskeba.ca/?p=11522) and sometimes I have to find satisfaction in seeing something most tourists never see.

  • sadly, my computer shows your video poorly. The sound is great, and you can tell that you are in a moving image, but all a see are rainbow bars of non-existant images. 🙁

  • Anyone else having problems with this imbedded Youtube video?

    It could be your connection. The video is slow to load on my cellular connection, but if I pause it once it’s started, it loads fine.

  • The embedded video is working fine for me. I am using Firefox on Windows 7.

  • Thanks, Steve! It works fine for me too on Firebox and Safari on both Windows 7 and OS X Mountain Lion as well as Explorer (shudders) on Windows 7.

  • […] 2013 is my fifth year of RVing. The early moments are starting to get a little fuzzy and I sometimes have a hard time remembering what year I did what or when I was where. I decided to index my most representative travel posts into a chronological list of my travels and call it The Travel Archives. […]

  • Hi Miranda!

    Love reading your traveling blog: I personally love traveling too!

    Just came back for the Everglades where I saw alligators like I had never seen before, they were simply all over the place… And me too, I was surprised that the water is actually sparkling clean and transparent.

    Even tough you went to Louisiana in winter, that was a good time to do that: I went there in august and honestly thought I was going to pass out from the heat. Coming from Quebec, where there weather is way more colder, that was quite a shock!

    Love your blog and can’t wait for your next posts… 🙂

  • Thanks for saying hi, Rachel!

    You’re lucky to have see gators in the wild. I keep hoping to have it happen, but not yet. 🙁

    I have to comment for everyone else in regards to you ‘way more colder’ comment: Quebec gets VERY hot and sticky in the summer. In July, it can get least as bad as Los Angeles and be worse than Las Vegas (which has dry heat).

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