We offer swamp tours year round, but the summer is the best time to see big alligators! Here are some fun facts about this sulky species:
– With nearly 3 million gators, Louisiana has the most abundant alligator population in the U.S.!
– Alligators' spoon shaped jaws make it difficult to pick up food. They compensate by swallowing food whole which is digested by the strong acid in their stomachs; this acid is so strong, it can even digest steel!
– Despite their monster-like appearance, alligators rarely make unprovoked attacks on humans. Crocodiles, on the other hand, found in salt water, can be quite aggressive.
Learn more and see these creatures in their natural habitat on a our peaceful Cajun Bayou Tour or the fast, fun Airboat Tour!
Bayou, Swamp, Wetland – What's the Difference?
Did you know the name bayou is actually native to Louisiana? The word is believed to have originated from bayuk, a term meaning small stream in a local Native American tongue. Bayou has come to mean the braided streams that are fed by the Mississippi River in the low-lying areas of Southern Louisiana. These marshes or wetland areas move very slowly and make ideal homes for creatures like alligators, crawfish and catfish — all of which are popular bayou foods.
A swamp is fed by bayous. Water moves through the bayous and culminates in a swamp. As you might imagine, water in a swamp seems to be standing still, though the water does rise and fall with the freshwater tide. In Louisiana, the bayous are fed by the Mississippi River.
Wetland is a more generic term meaning an area of land saturated with water. Bayous and swamps are examples of wetlands.
Learn more about Louisiana waters and geography on our Airboat Tour or Cajun Bayou Tour.
People often ask:Is it fun to do a swamp tour in the bayou in the fall and in the winter?
And the answer is: yes of course! You may see fewer alligators and snakes because reptiles slow down, hide, and begin to hibernate when the temperature is below 70 degrees, but you actually see more birds and other wildlife that you don't see in the summer. You also get a better view further out into the swamp in the wintertime because there are no needles left on the cypress trees (since they are deciduous). Often times things are still blooming in the fall and some in the winter, and there is a gorgeous carpet of colorful flowers on the water.
Louisiana and New Orleans in particular have always had a love/hate relationship with water, benefitting from strategic shipping positions and access to coastal fisheries, but also suffering from floods and hurricanes. Historically, Louisianians primarily worried about flooding from the river. Efforts to levee the Mississippi began shortly after the 1718 founding of New Orleans. Primitive levees often breached, leading to the most destructive river flood in history – The Great Flood of 1927 which submerged nearly one-third of New Orleans. This tragedy did inspire better flood control strategies, inlcuding spillways and the world's longest system of levees! Today, we no longer worry about flooding from the Mississippi but of that caused by Hurricanes. The success of river control inadvertently helped destroy coastal wetlands, which acted as a buffer to absorb storm-induced surges prior to reaching the city. Hurricanes Betsy (1965), Andrew (1992), Katrina (2005), and Gustav (2008) flooded inland areas much worse than equivalent storms did historically.
To learn more on this subject, we highly recommend visiting the exhibit Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond at the Presbytere in the Louisiana State Museum right in Jackson Square. If you want to learn even more, take our City and Katrina Tour, where you can see first hand the areas of the city damaged by our most recent battle with water.
Click here for hours/prices on the exhibit.
Louisiana’s swamps are famous for the beautiful red cypress trees that are so prevalent. Also called bald cypress, these trees are actually a type of pine tree and related to sequoias. Their sap contains tannic acid which works as a natural preservative and a fire retardant in these incredible trees, which made them an extremely popular building material amongst the early settlers in Louisiana. The high acid content in the wood also repels the destructive Formosan termites that are found throughout the south. The combination of natural fire retardant and termite repellent means that if you build something out of cypress it will last a long time. The longevity of houses and furniture made from cypress likely contribute to its moniker as the eternal wood. You can see the beautiful cypress in their natural habitat if you join us on one of our swamp tours. Call us at 1-888-223-2093 for more information!
When people think of swamp tours they also think of alligators. In the winter, the temperature is usually too cool for the gators to surface; when the water temperature is below 76 degrees alligators snuggle deep into the mud and go to sleep. However, with the gators asleep, there are still tons of beautiful sights to see in the swamp. Winter is an excellent time of year for bird watching. During the cooler months, many birds migrate South to Louisiana to escape harsher winters in the North. With many swamp trees shedding leaves, it becomes easier than ever to spot the birds! If you want a chance to see some birds for yourself, give us a call to jump on one of our swamp tours: 1-888-223-2093 or visit our reservations page!