We had the glorious opportunity to visit New Orleans earlier this year with friends!

We did all of the essential New Orleans tourist things! We had coffee and beignets at Cafe Du Monde, visited the amazing Mardi Gras World and listened to fabulous music on Frenchman Street.

We had amazing food and discovered that Tujagues makes the worlds best Pimm’s Cup. Thom also got to sample his first absinthe at the Old Absinthe House and declared it good. (even though it made his mouth entirely numb)

Thom and I love zoos, and like to visit them in different locales whenever we can. It is so much fun to see how the different regions showcase their local flora and fauna. Some are really incredible, and the New Orleans Audubon Zoo goes out of its way to showcase the swamp environment. We really loved the new orangutan exhibit and there is nothing better than an enclosed aviary! Make sure to spend some time in the gorgeous Audubon Park too. It is a gem of a park that is a magnet for local and migrating birds, as well as some gorgeous trees.

The piece de resistance of our trip south was a canoe trip on the bayou with Canoe and Trail Adventures! I was so excited about this trip, I just knew the scenery was going to be magical, and I wanted to learn everything I could about the swamp. I sure picked the right company. Right from the start, Chad put us at ease and Tom pulled out the maps to give us some history of the bayou into Lake Maurepas. We love that stuff!

We also met our tour partners, Noel and John, who were delightful. Sharing these experiences with others is one of our favorite things to do and making new friends wherever we go is a giant perk.

It was incredible straight away. The swamp feels like another world entirely. This bayou is a cypress and tupelo wetland with the telltale moss and aquatic plants. (to include invasives like salvina that are threatening these amazing waterways)

Right away we got to witness a couple of alligators, which is a big novelty for us. None of them were very large, and they had zero interest in us, which is just as I like it. I also love all the cypress knees. Some trees had over 100 knees! There have been several theories over the years for the purpose of these knees, but the prevailing idea suggests that they work to stabilize the tree from harsh conditions. And because cypress trees are so resistant to rot, even dead trees remain standing for generations.

We were clearly having the time of our lives. The weather was perfect – especially as there were some powerful storms earlier in the week, and our tour had the possibility of cancellation.

Our guide Tom was wonderful and exceedingly patient as we peppered him with questions during the course of the paddle. We were thrilled to learn that many of the guides are also certified Master Naturalists through the Louisiana Master Naturalist Program! You know that you’re working with die-hard nature fans when they take the time to work through the program. We felt like true kindred spirits and discovered that they take out Master Naturalist trainees on special bayou trips. We may try to find another time to finagle a trip to New Orleans just to experience that.

Paddling in spring meant we got the chance to see several swamp wildflowers. We saw bull tongue, spider lily, Louisiana iris and so much more.

We passed directly under a massive bald eagle’s nest, where two parents were tending to two fledglings. It was seriously cool. We also had an enormous barred owl that followed us along the watery trail to stare us down. We also picked up some hitchhikers – these were cricket frogs. That was a treat because we’ve been frog monitors at home and learned the cricket frog’s call early on. It is a surprisingly small frog for such a powerful call. We also spied some prothonotary warblers and my first indigo bunting! I get such a thrill from seeing wildlife.

It was just an incredible trip that we never wanted to end. Tom even took us all the way to the lake, adding an extra 30 minutes to our outing, and we felt extra blessed for all of his time. If you have never had the chance to see the bayou up close – please make sure it is on your life list. It is not to be missed!

New Orleans is a pretty incredible city with a character unique to any place we’ve ever been. There is so much fun to be had, great food to sample, music to enjoy, art to be seen and nature to experience. Take a trip yourself and Live a Great Story!!