Two magical hours on the Atchafalaya

We left Alexandria on I49 at about 0900 this morning and by 1000 it was clear we were making far better time than we’d expected. We pulled into a service area and booked the ‘swamp tour’ we’d picked as the most likely to be interesting  – lastwildernesstours.com – for 1600 this afternoon, then picked a slow route to Bayou Sorrel. A. was navigating; he kindly chose a route that included the raised section of I10 that crosses the Atchafalaya wetland: it is spectacular! And now when I sing the USS ZydecOldsmobile chorus, I know what and where Opelusas and Lawtell are.

We arrived at the Bait Store, met the two other people (from the Netherlands) on the tour, then followed our guide Al to the boat launch for two magical hours of wonders and wildlife watching. 

 
 

It was quietly spectacular, amazing, wonder-ful. 

 
We saw alligators. Some behaving as they should, basking in the sun and warily slipping into the water if the boat approached too closely. One that clearly expected food, approaching the boat when we stopped.

 
Al explained that oil workers had been feeding the alligators in this area, teaching them to associate boats with food, which means that one day the alligator will approach a hunter’s boat and be shot for its skin and meat. Moral: if you think alligators are cool and interesting, DON’T FEED THEM. Don’t take tours that feed them.

(Also, don’t take an airboat tour. They are unbelievably noisy!)

We saw great blue herons, ibises, egrets. Al nosed the boat into shallow water to show us amazing spiders, including this water spider.

 
The landscape is alive: there was wildlife everywhere we looked. And no mosquitoes, probably (said Al) because there are so many minnows and dragonflies eating them. Certainly more dragonflies and damselflies than I’ve ever seen before in my life. 

 
While we were observing a large alligator on a log about 100yds away, a butterfly decided my perspiration was an ideal refreshment.  

We learned about some of the things threatening this magical place, from climate change and water management to the most immediate: the oil industry.

 
Not only drilling platforms for exploration and extraction, but pipelines laid to transport oil and gas across the landscape. They’re under no obligation to restore this waterway to its original condition – and they won’t. 

 
It’s low water season, so we could see the cypress knees – more of them than should be visible, due to wake erosion.

 
High water rises 8′ or more above the current low water level. We want to come back and see that. But really, we just want to see this land- and waterscape again.

Tonight Morgan City!

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About sarahw

A zoologist who draws, a spinner who weaves, a person who thinks.
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One Response to Two magical hours on the Atchafalaya

  1. Gwen says:

    I love traveling virtually with you. (Perhaps one day in person again!) Thank you for sharing all the fascinating things you find to be fascinated by!

    Like

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