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.

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water hyacinth carpeting the water

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water hyacinth

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blackberries

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water barely visible in the bayou

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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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