I know its hard to believe but there is more to the Big Easy than just incredible food mind blowing music and an abundance of art, color, and culture- there’s an awful lot of nature too!
Just a short 30 minute drive outside of New Orleans, is the Barataria Preserve part of the Jean Laffite National Historic Park and Preserve, and it may just be one of the area’s best kept secrets!
There are A LOT of swamp and bayou tours advertised that will cost you anywhere between $25-$50 dollars per person, a day at the preserve, however, will cost you $0 and unlike the tour boats, you set the timeline, wander fast or wander slow, you’re just as likely to see gators here as you are on the tour boats!
We did not have ideal weather the day of our visit, it was cold, really cold- 50 degrees in Louisiana and hell might as well freeze over, it was dreary- lots of drizzles and cloudy skies and it was far from what you might consider a beautiful day. The downside of the cold meant we didn’t have the opportunity to see a lot of critters- gators are cold-blooded and weren’t having the overcast weather, but the upside was that there were zero mosquitos, not a single one, we think that’s a pretty fair trade off! We did, however, spot lots of tracks including one left behind from a massive gator and encountered one very inquisitive green anole.
We always recommend starting any visit off with stopping by the visitor’s center, there you can usually grab a map and dig up some insider knowledge on the best places to spot certain critters, or for epic views. Unfortunately for us, we visit the Barataria Preserve on a holiday, and the visitor’s center was closed. The good news for us was even though the center was closed, the trail map is accessible online!
Trails We Hiked:
Visitors Center Trail (.25 mi) to Palmetto Trail (.09) to Bayou Coquille (.05) to Marsh Overlook (.04) and back out again.
A really beautiful hike, with lots of boardwalk areas intersecting the swamp. Continue walking and the swamp eventually gives way to marsh lands covered in cattails, and towering oak trees. We think this would be the perfect trail for spotting gators if the weather had been nicer.
Pecan Grove Trail (1 mi.)
Located in the Bayou Des Families district names for a 1779 Spanish settlement, the Pecan Grove Trail was stunning, if this had been the only trail we hiked all day we could have left happy. We had hoped to connect this trail to the Old Bataria Trail, and then loop back around on the Plantation Trail, but due to maintenance, the trails were closed.
The Jean Laffite National Historic Park & Preserve is one of those quirky sites that is spread out over miles and miles of different management districts including some areas that encompass downtown New Orleans.
The address for the Barataria Preserve Visitor’s Center is:
6588 Barataria Boulevard, Marrero LA
Google Maps got us there just fine, however, the Park Service does suggest double checking it as some GPS systems seem to have issues locating the address.
Planning a trip out to the Bayou? Drop us a comment and let us know how it went! We’d love to hear about all the critters we didn’t get to see!