July 15, 2010

A PEARL RIVER SWAMP TOUR – A REAL GEM!

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 11:41 am

After taking a Louisiana swamp tour in March, who would have ever thought that a month later, on April 20th, gushing oil from the gulf sea floor would make headlines news. Purposely taking a trip to New Orleans to learn more about the delicate ecosystem of the wetlands, it was my intention to write about it on my very first blog never anticipating the sense of urgency I now feel to share with you.

“Son of a gun we’ll have big fun on the bayou” is the old Hank Williams song, “Jambalaya”, that kept running through my head after our adventurous swamp tour. If I perk your interest, even slightly, to embark on a visit to the Louisiana Wetlands, than I have done my job. With Captain Mel as our tour guide, we took Dr. Wagner’s Honey Island Swamp Tour at Crawford Landing near Slidell. http://www.honeyislandswamp.com/ Just outside of New Orleans, and on the Pearl River, this pristine ecosystem is also recognized for the unique socio-economic communities that have been thriving there for generations.

GEOGRAPHICAL/HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE

The word “bayou” is an Indian term for water path through the swamp. Bayous are navigable slow moving streams that were actually old river tributaries. Swamps are boggy wetlands, mostly still water, and can be fed by bayous whereas bayous are fed by rivers. Bayous and swamps are both fresh water and estuarine (low-salinity) habitats. Navigated by Native American Indians, the Pearl River was renamed after the French explorer d’Iberville found pearls at the river’s mouth in 1698. The Pearl River starts in Mississippi, is 421 miles long, runs through southern Louisiana, and both the east and west parts of the river eventually make its way to the Gulf of Mexico.

WOW, WHAT WILDLIFE!

Depending on what time of year you take a Louisiana swamp tour, will determine the kinds of critters you will see. Among the resident and migratory wildlife in swamps and coastal marshes, your eyes may feast upon varieties of deer, bobcats, beaver, rabbits, nutria (see below for more information on the nutria) the flying squirrel gliding from tree to tree, opossum, raccoon, fox, feral hogs, otter, mink, snakes, turtles, frogs, bald eagles, pelicans, waterfowl, herons, egrets, ibis, owls, woodpeckers, and osprey. The river and swamp contains an abundance of bass, catfish, gar, bream, crappie, spotted trout, snapper, crab, shrimp, oysters, and crawfish. I bet you thought I forgot the alligator. Heck no! Seeing the alligator in its natural habitat is a kick for both young and old. Native to the southeastern United States, there are 1.5 to 2 million American Alligators in Louisiana alone! I sort of feel guilty now, but one night at a French Quarter restaurant in New Orleans, I ate alligator nuggets as an appetizer. I couldn’t believe it, alligator taste just like chicken!

SWAMPS ARE BOTANICAL GARDENS TOO!

On the Honey Island Swamp Tour, I was awestruck by the silent beauty of the bayou. Just to be still and only hear natural sounds while gazing upon the indigenous plant life, I experienced a calming “ZEN” moment. In a fast paced, high-tech world, communing with nature, even only for a moment, was mentally therapeutic. The Honey Island Swamp area is 20 miles long, 7 miles across, with 34,896 of its 70,000 acres government sanctioned as permanently protected wildlife area. The bald cypress trees are everywhere and very captivating. In March, the Spanish moss that hangs from the trees is not yet green. The moss is grey as is the tree itself. These cypress trees reminded me of relaxed, wispy ghost figures draped in style. Up and down the bayou, they looked breathtakingly eerie and beautiful at the same time. Our tour guide, Mel, told us that bats have been known to roost in the cypress trees. Did you know that the cypress trees are hollow inside? I didn’t know that and yet they manage to grow in water. Some over 100 feet tall, they have buttress trunks and cypress knees – which are knobby, woody projections risen above the water and is part of the cypress tree root system. Another tree, the tupelo-gum produces a light, mild tasting honey. Other plant life include ferns, swamp grasses, vines, palmettos, water hyacinth, irises, mallow rose, duckweed, water lilies, insect eating plants – sundew and pitcher plant. Sometimes Swamps get a bad rap. They are often thought of as dark, dirty, creepy places with no value. Quite the contrary, these swamps are beautiful, fragile ecosystems, teeming with life and perfectly balanced. People who make their living from this area are in tuned with their natural surroundings and have respect for it.
So, if you still haven’t decided where to visit this summer, consider a visit to a Louisiana bayou. As of this writing, Dr. Wagner’s Honey Island Swamp Tour office informed me that they are far enough up the Pearl River not to be affected by the gulf oil spill.

DID YOU KNOW?

According to National Geographic Research Division – Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries estimates that currently over 63,000 acres of coastal wetlands have been demolished, or chomped, by the now ubiquitous nutria. The large, marsh-loving rodent, somewhere between a muskrat and a beaver, was brought to Louisiana from South America in the 1930’s for the fur industry and has since claimed Louisiana’s coastal wetlands as home. The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is hoping to control nutria populations by encouraging Louisianans to trap them and eat them. Nutria meat, also called ragondin, is similar to rabbit or dark turkey meat. It is higher in protein and lower in both fat and cholesterol than beef, chicken, and even turkey. Although nutria is difficult to find on menus, Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries hopes it will, one day, become a popular dish and has even posted recipes on its website: www.nutria.com

Here is what a nutria looks like


www.honeyislandswamp.com – For information on Dr. Wagner’s Honey Island Swamp
For more related information concerning Louisiana Wetlands:
www.lacoast.gov – LA Coast – Maintained by the National Wetlands Research Center, an excellent site for newsletters, articles and general background on Louisiana’s disappearing coastline and restoration efforts to save it.
www.ica.gov – Louisiana Coastal Area Ecosystem Restoration Plan – A comprehensive site that includes a wetlands program calendar and library and land change maps.
www.nwrc.usgs.gov – National Wetlands Research Center – Publications, data and maps, news releases, topics on Louisiana’s coastline and wetlands from this research center of the U.S. Geological Survey.

BRIGHT GREEN IDEA

Solvatten is a household water treatment unit. The portable 10 liter container is a patented and scientifically proven Swedish invention.
Solvatten makes unsafe water drinkable by using solar energy. Put Solvatten in a sunny place, give it 2-6 hours and the water will be drinkable! This can be done twice, sometimes three times a day, producing 20-30 liters. Solvatten can treat water containing bacteria, viruses and parasites. Solvatten does not use the aid of any chemicals or any energy-source except the sun. Solvatten can also be used as a solar water heater, providing hot water for cooking and hygiene. Used around the world in places such as Africa and Haiti, visit Solvatten’s website at www.solvatten.se to learn more.

My Green Rainbow – G-Rating

This is a totally unofficial green rating system using the 7 green shades of my green rainbow. Using G-1 (green beginners) to G-7 (very best green), we will rate businesses, products, projects etc; for their greenness.

 

FROM SIN CITY TO GREEN CITY

On the Las Vegas Strip, in Nevada, is a sophisticated modern urban city called City Center. We gave it a G-7 Rating-our very best Forest Rain. One of the largest green projects in the U.S., it is home of a casino, hotels, living residences, spas, shopping, meeting places, dining/entertainment, spectacular architecture and its own monorail system. City Center has achieved LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, for its innovative approach to site development, preserving indoor environmental quality, water savings, energy efficiency, and materials selection. Our favorite is the metal art sculpture of the Colorado River in Aria’s Hotel lobby representing the importance of water conservation. Visit the website at http://www.citycenter.com to learn more about City Center’s green commitment.