Kayaking the Louisiana marsh is a sportsman's dream. In fact, the state motto is "Sportsman's Paradise". If you are a fisherman, duck hunter, or just enjoy bird watching, then Louisiana holds up to its name. The swamps, lakes, bogs, bayous and marsh are full of fish and wildlife from alligators to bear and a wide range of sea birds. So often fishermen miss the forest for the trees. While on the water you can have a fantastic time checking out the wildlife.
(Click on any photo for a larger view. All photos are copyrighted and the property of Russ James)
While fishing is certainly a major draw to the Louisiana marsh and rightly so. Some of the best fishing can be found along the millions of acres of saltwater coast and brackish bays and bayous. People come from all over the U.S. for redfish fishing.
I was born and raised in Lake Charles, LA. South Louisiana has always held a warm spot in my heart and always will. I travel back to southern Louisiana a couple times a year just to view the wildlife in the swamps and marsh and to catch a few fish.
While it truly is a fishermen's paradise, don't forget about the abundant photo opportunities that abound there. Don't get so caught up in fishing that you don't take in the sights and sounds. If you take a few extra minutes, you can capture some amazing photos and stories that you can pass down to your children.
What Louisiana is probably most famous for is alligators. Actually alligators range from the southern east coast and from Florida to Texas, all through the bayous, lakes, and marshes along the coast. While kayaking, they usually stay away from people and are not a problem, unless they are used to being fed... which you should never do. This most often occurs along well traveled tourist routes. Alligators usually stay away from humans. While you can paddle close to them, never get too close. As soon as you approach they will usually submerge or slide off into the water. If you ever see a large alligator swimming toward you, just paddle away from him quickly. It may be that he is looking for a handout.
The egrets are a type of heron and one of the most common birds you will see along the coast and bayous. They often stand motionless looking for fish, crawfish, and other swamp creatures they can eat. You will start to see them sitting in the trees as you approach southern Louisiana. The Louisiana marsh is loaded with them. They are very skilled hunters and can be seen quickly grabbing a fish swimming by.
There are several species of egret. A smaller egret, called the "Cattle Egret" is often seen in pastures or sitting on the backs of cows. They eat insects, such as ticks, and usually stay close to the animals.
The Anhingas are very skilled water birds most often found in the swamps, canals, bays and bayous. They dive to catch fish and when they have had enough to eat will find a perch to dry their wings.
Anhingas do not have oil glands on their feathers like ducks and other sea birds. So they can be seen with their wings fully stretched out feathers separated to allow the to dry faster.
You will most likely see them on posts or dead tree branches or where ever the wind is not obstructed.
While the Louisiana marsh and bayous hold a lot of wildlife, for me they are secondary. I love watching them, but most of all I love fishing. If you have never had a grilled redfish, you really need to try it. The best redfish are the ones you have caught yourself.
If you are new to kayaking or have never been in the marsh, don't go alone. For your first trip try to take an experienced person who is familiar with the area or hire a guide. Often you can either hire a guide for fishing or for an Eco Tour. Most often the same guides do both. Either way, get on the water and have fun. Bring your camera too!
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