Just south of Bayou-Segnette State Park in New Orleans is the Barataria Preserve, part of the Jean Lafitte National Park.
On Friday afternoon, we were looking for something outdoorsy to do, knowing that we would be spending Saturday in the French Quarter. We looked up some options online, and finally decided on the Barataria Preserve, just a few minutes away.
After a quick stop in the Visitor Center, we decided to hike the Bayou Coquille Trail.
This trail is one of the preserve’s most diverse. It begins on high ground deposited by flooding from Bayou des Familles, once a major distributary of the Mississippi River. An American Indian village was here about 200-600 A.D. As the trail descends, walk through hardwood forest with live oak trees, stands of dwarf palmettos, the swamp with its baldcypress trees, and finally the freshwater marsh’s floating prairie of grasses and aquatic plants.
Right off the bat we saw an alligator swimming in the water,
and a few snakes as we moved further along.
Most of the trail was a raised boardwalk above the bayou, and was a fairly easy hike. Along with the critters we saw, there were also some interesting trees and pretty flowers blooming.
We reached the Kenta Canal at the end of the Bayou Coquille Trail, and continued on along the Marsh Overlook Trail.
This continuation of Bayou Coquille Trail sits atop a bank formed by dredged material from Kenta Canal. Originally used for irrigation and drainage of plantation fields, the canal was deepened and widened in the late 1800s so loggers could gain access to the bald cypress swamp. This is a good place to see American alligators on warm days. The platform at trail’s end overlooks the marsh, a nursery for shrimp, crabs,
oysters, and fish, and a habitat for waterfowl, wading birds, and deer, otter, nutria, and other mammals.
We reached the Marsh Overlook at the end of the trail, and climbed up to the overlook where we could see the marsh out in front of us, and the Kenta Canal to either side.
The trails are not loops, so we took the same path back to the car, and continued to drive south through the Preserve to the little town of Jean Lafitte.
It’s a quaint little fishing village, and we were hoping to find someplace to stop for dinner. The boys were skeptical that we were going to find any restaurants!
We were surprised by the number of new homes we saw in this little town, but found out later that Jean Lafitte had been wiped out by a hurricane a few years ago, and it’s still in the process of being rebuilt.
One interesting thing that we saw were above-ground cemeteries -- not unusual in a river delta area like this . . . but the graves were not in a single area, they were scattered among homes on several residential streets!
They do have a restaurant, too – and it’s pretty well-known for their food!
We joined the locals in the small dining room, and enjoyed our meatless “Good Friday” meal. Several of our fellow diners struck up conversations with us, and one man even shared part of his meal with Tom! Boutte’s is apparently home to the “the best” fried oysters, and when Tom commented that he wouldn’t mind trying one, the man behind us took one off his plate and handed it to him!
We enjoyed a delicious meal, and the company of some very friendly people!