New Orleans – Barataria Preserve

About a half-hour south of New Orleans is the Barataria Preserve, part of the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park & Preserve. We took a ranger-led hike along Bayou Coquille, and learned a lot about the geography of the Mississippi River delta. The River has no clear single outlet to the Gulf of Mexico – the river keeps gobbling up land, creating new outlets to the sea, depositing sediment that creates new land. Unfortunately, pollution and other man-made interference has been killing off the marsh grasses. The roots of the grasses hold the soil in place – as the plants die, the soil erodes, salt water from the Gulf rushes in and kills more plants, and the cycle continues. The Mississippi delta is losing over a football field of land every 48 minutes – 16 square miles a year.

Here’s some of what it looks like now. Double-click any photo to enlarge.

We learned that a bayou is a very slowly moving river/stream, a marsh is water-covered land with grasses, short bushes, and a swamp is a marsh with trees. And this bayou is choked with invasive plants – lovely and green, but crowding out the local ecosystem, and wiping out the old pastime of canoeing/kayaking on the bayou. But there is still wildlife.

Here you can see how choked the bayou is with water hyacinth.


water hyacinth carpeting the water


water hyacinth




water barely visible in the bayou

IMG_7462 IMG_7463 IMG_7467 only aIMG_7468

More boardwalk and wildlife – a juvenile alligator!  Very nice hike along the boardwalk, about 90 minutes walking round trip. And the midden, a mound of oyster shells discarded by Native Americans centuries ago, was where a tall cypress tree decided to spread its roots. A nice green change, and connection to past residents, from the craziness of the city.

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