My last day in the swamp would be my favorite and, unfortunately, my shortest. It was in a kayak on what turned out to be a private photography tour. If you missed Day 1 or Day 2 of my swamp stomp, click the links.
Early research on swamp tours proved disappointing. A lot of them are only for an hour or so and involve lots of other people on a big, noisy boat. I’m sure jetting around on an air boat is fun, but it wasn’t going to get me the images I wanted. What I really wanted is someone to let me borrow a kayak and bring me to a really cool place. I wouldn’t necessarily mind another person around, but not a dozen of them.
Then a google search brought me to Wild Louisiana Tours and their sunrise or sunset photography tour. Bingo. My wish was granted. Well, it was once I booked it and got a confirmation. I practically danced around my house all day when it was done. Finally I’d get to go into a real cypress swamp in a boat. In the quiet.
I picked Saturday and of course there was a problem. The weather. Powerful thunderstorms had been moving through the area for the last few days. I got caught in a downpour on Friday, but it would be a different story in a kayak. Luckily both Josh (my guide) and I were flexible and we rescheduled for Sunday. He picked me up at my hotel while it was still dark out and we headed to the launch point at Maurepas Swamp Wildlife Management Area. I didn’t know it at the time, but it is a crucial bird migration stopping area. Forests of this type continue to be destroyed so humans can have more strip malls, parking lots, housing developments and golf courses. Sigh. But anyway…this one is being carefully managed to eliminate all encroachment. And it is a truly beautiful location.
We headed to a spot that had potential and waited for the color to paint the sky.
And we waited. With me trying to manage my tripod from the boat while it was in the muck as deep as it could go. I’m an experienced photographer, but damn this was hard. The boat moves, the floating plants move, the tripod slides down a little – the whole thing was crazy, but I eventually got that one shot and it’s not bad. The color never showed and we moved down the channel a bit. This is where I remind you to always look over your shoulder –
All the while Josh is trying to figure out what kind of a weirdo he has on his hands. What kinds of shots do I want, how good a paddler am I, am I stubborn, do I give up easily…? He must encounter a lot of different people, but after while he had my number and we paddled on. I asked a ton of questions about the canals, the natural swamps, flora and fauna. He was great and filled me in on a lot of things about the swamp and the area. Plus he has a good eye –
After some difficulty getting through a thick mass of some invasive plants (I almost got stuck) we came to this –
Ah…the wonder. I thought my head might swivel off my neck. And there was even an abandoned logging camp! Abandoned stuff in a swamp! Have I died and gone to heaven?
By now he knew he had a nut on his hands, but his kind of nut and he was super happy that I really seemed to like swamps so much. No news to you guys, but I think my enthusiasm was unusual.
We chatted and I shot, marveling at how incredibly beautiful this little backwater was. Except for a sudden cacophony of grackles and/or red winged blackbirds, and one motor boat in another channel, it was quiet. Considering how close to the highway (and a giant bridge) this was, surprisingly so.
Even though I couldn’t feel my toes because they were wet from the paddle dripping, I could have stayed here all day. It wasn’t just the big landscapes, although just look! OMG. So incredible.
I found small wonders, too.
And that canopy!
Just exactly my perfect kayaking scenario – quiet water snaking its way through deep forest. Are you looking for more cypress knees? There weren’t many. That bore out the info I found that deep water bald cypress don’t make them much at all. Another thing I learned about these trees is that often when you look at a tight group of them, you’re looking at a single tree. Like aspens, cypress root systems can send up multiple trunks giving the illusion of many individual trees.
I never wanted to leave, but eventually we had to. On the way back we ran into some old friends.
Great egrets and little blue herons abound, but mostly we just chased them down the canals. It was too cold for gators and I didn’t see any on this trip. No snakes either. Maybe next time. Josh and his father are thinking about adding a 3-day tour in a more remote swamp (with bigger trees!!) and since there’s no camping involved, I could be seriously tempted.
For more images of my Louisiana Swamp Days – check out the gallery here.