What better place to start part deaux than Breaux Bridge along Bayou Teche? Firmin Breaux originally purchased the area that is now Breaux Bridge in 1771, from New Orleans” businessman Jean Francois Ledée who had acquired the land as an original French land grant. And, of course, Bayou Teche was already there, had been, in fact, for thousands of years but not in it’s bayou-form. Bayou Teche was the main channel of the Mississippi River up till about 3,000 years ago. And the Big Muddy is inching her way back, cozying up to the Atchafalaya but dams and levees and the Army Corp of Engineers are all there to see that doesn’t happen.
I don’t know if it’s in the same spot where Breaux built his first bridge over the Teche but there’s an old drawbridge on Bridge Street that carries you across the bayou in the heart of this quaint and colorful Cajun town. A town that officially became the “Crawfish Capital of the World” back in 1959 and is home to the Crawfish Festival, one of the area’s largest annual fais do-dos. But we weren’t there for the mudbugs, we were there for the Cajun Country Swamp Tour.
Cajun Country Swamp Tour is a Mom and Pop business that operates out of a public boat launch on Lake Martin about five miles south of Breaux Bridge. The guides for the tour are Butch Guchereaux and his son Shawn. Our vessel for the tour was a cool, modified “crawfish skiff” with a bevy of captains chairs bolted to the bottom. The 20 or so foot V-hulled steel skiff can easily accommodate 15 adults but is designed to take you to the nether regions of the swamp.
And the swamp is the Cypress Island/Lake Martin Swamp. It’s part backwater and part swamp and all teaming with wildlife. It is included in The Nature Conservancy, Louisiana’s 9,500-acre Cypress Island Preserve. The south end of Lake Martin is a world-renown wading bird rookery with perhaps 20,000 egrets, herons, ibises, roseate spoonbills and others nesting in the cypresses and tupelos. Unfortunately for us (fortunate for the rookery) boat access to the rookery is banned from Feb. 15 (we were there Feb. 18) through July 31 to insure a productive nesting season.
Shawn Guchereaux was our guide and I have to admit that when I met him I was instantly transported back in time to the years I spent living and working out of Lafayette, where that rich Cajun accent was as much a part of the ambiance as the thick, salty Louisiana breeze. And Shawn was not only amiable, with Cajun stories to tell, he was also knowledgeable about the swamp ecosystem, the native flora and fauna and adept at easing our crawfish skiff alongside, gators, snakes, turtles and nutrias. We couldn’t go into the rookery but we still saw white ibises, great blue herons, anhingas, great egrets, double-crested cormorants, a black-crowned night heron, one sleepy, photogenic barred owl and more.
It was a wonderful (easy with kids) tour and one I highly recommend. You can learn about the tour online at www.cajuncountryswamptours.com/ or by phone at 337.319.0010.