Varying shades of gold
The Atchafalaya Basin, otherwise known as the Atchafalaya Swamp, is the largest wetland and swamp in the United States. Our very own backyard is a lovely combination of alluvial marsh and delta where the Atchafalaya River and the Gulf of Mexico converge.
A few impressive facts
- The Basin contains about 70 percent forest habitat (885,000 acres) and about 30 percent marshland (517,000 acres) and open water.
- According to USGS Louisiana Water Science Center, the Mississippi River discharges 30 percent of its flow in to the Atchafalaya River.
- The vast delta of the Atchafalaya River is a prime wintering habitat for water fowl, supporting nearly half of America’s migratory waterfowl.
- The Atchafalaya is considered the most productive swap in the world (three to five times more than the Everglades and Okefenokee Swamp) according to basinkeeper.org.
Jason Roy and I were fortunate to be hosted by Dustin and Blair Suire and Scott Landry, all of New Iberia. After washing down a couple glazed doughnuts and kolaches with hot coffee, our carpool set out for a morning on the water.
On the way to an area just north of Charenton, we chatted about The Great Flood of ’27 and effort it took to build the levee in the 40s. Then, as if in a time long forgotten, riders on horseback tipped their hats our way as we passed.
Through the conversation we learned about a camp in the area owned by Rodney and Page Pesson that had been part of a 1972 film called “The Legend of Boggy Creek.” A quick pass revealed a lovely camp situated on a beautiful length of riverbank. The two white chairs, an empty six pack and fishing poles strewn on the dock were evidence of a good evening had.
Launching the boats from Sandy Cove, our guides proudly gave us a tour of their basin playground. I found myself pondering how one bend to another could be so vastly different. Open water and blue sky unexpectedly turned into forested cypress-tupelo tre[es, each scenery so unique as to even have a distinctive smell and climate.
Crawfishermen with bags of basin red gold were out working a steady, unyielding pace just like their oilfield companions who were out seeking the legendary black gold. Alligators and waterfowl hurried out of the way while catfish jug lines bobbed in our wake.
We inquired about the logistics of house boat living and waived to a couple kayaking. Things got a bit “sticky” back in Beehive Chute, and our airboat captain caught air more than once while navigating the treacherous terrain.
We wrapped the afternoon up by cooling off with a cold one on the shaded porch of Camp Watch Your Step. The day was everything I love about living in south Louisiana.
What will your story be? This area alone has 15 public boat launches (get the list at IberiaTravel.com). You can also rent a paddle boat or canoe and play at the sand bar of Lake Fausse Point state park (a complete list of amenities can be found at www.crt.state.la.us/louisiana-state-parks).
There are plenty of options when it comes to having a good time on the basin. Get up and get out. An adventure awaits.
Funny Camp Names
A few that caught our eye included:
Muddiver Mansion and Camp Play ‘N’ Hookie
Boggy Creek Sequels
After “The Legend of Boggy Creek” earned around $20 million at the box office, a sequel was nearly guaranteed. The first was a 1977 film titled “Return to Boggy Creek.” It starred Dawn Wells (Mary Ann of “Gilligan’s Island”) and Dana Plato (“Diff’rent Strokes”). It was followed by “Boggy Creek II: And the Legend Continues” (1985, featured on “Mystery Science Theater 3000”), “Boggy Creek: The Legend is True” (2010) and “The Legacy of Boggy Creek” (2011). Is it time for another resurgence?
The oldest business in the basin may just be the honeybee business. Take leisurely drive along the western levee and you’re sure to see hives lined up in the shade of the pecan trees. Many local businesses, such as Bernard’s Apiaries, harvest that sweet swamp gold that is the perfect addition to a slightly salty homemade drop biscuit or remedy to soothe a sore throat.
Learn The Lingo
“Showa Down Nah”
Quite the opposite of simmer down, showa down nah means to get your boat on step…otherwise known as hauling tail!