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