ROAMin Around: Southern Louisiana Paddling Trails - ROAM

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ROAMin Around: Southern Louisiana Paddling Trails

At ROAM we know a thing or two about navigating the bayou. ROAM was started by a group of friends from New Orleans who had a passion for RVing, kayaking and catching fish. The hiking trails below sea level aren’t much to write home about, but what the gulf coast lacks in elevation – it makes up for in wetlands. There’s over three million acres of bayous, swamps, marshes and barrier islands in Louisiana and hundreds of paddling trails in Mississippi where you can take in the beauty of these wetlands. After calling New Orleans homebase for almost a decade, I’ve found some of the best spots that you can explore from your canoe, kayak, pirogue, flats boat or inner tube that are less than a 3 hour drive from the city. Here are some of my favorites:

Know before you go:

How high is the water? It’s important to know that waterways can change drastically with the amount of rainfall that’s occurred. Bayous and marshlands are typically slow moving off-shoots of a larger body of water and have currents that change direction with the tide. Low water levels in the bayou can make certain areas impassable by boat. High water levels on a fast moving river can make conditions dangerous for paddlers. Call the local ranger station for water levels before you leave on your paddling trip, they’ll be able to tell you if the water levels are suitable for a canoe or kayak.

How do I approach alligators? Gators are all over the gulf coast and if you’ve never come in contact with them before, there’s a few things you should know before launching your boat into their habitat. Springtime is their breeding season and this is typically when alligators are most aggressive. Female gators are extremely protective of their eggs and male gators are protective over their territory. Gators have highly sensitive hearing and will usually know you’re coming before you see them.

Alligators typically won’t bother you, these animals are way more afraid of you than you are of them. If you do come in contact with one on the water, your first line of defense is to make a loud noise to scare them off. Either hit the side of your kayak with your paddle or blow a whistle. If you get too close to a gator, they’ll let you know by opening their mouth and hissing at you. If a gator does this, back away as calmly and slowly as possible.

 

Cane Bayou

Lacombe, LA

Located in between Fontainebleau State Park and the St. Tammany Wildlife Refuge is Cane Bayou. The state park offers camping year round and a scenic view of Lake Pontchartrain, making Cane Bayou a great weekend adventure trip. You can paddle down the scenic bayou until you reach Lake Pontchartrain, where you’ll find sailboats, jet skiers, bass and osprey. This three mile out and back route is peaceful and great for those looking to catch some fish.

Distance from New Orleans: 40 miles

Where to launch:

Address: 24380 Ronald Reagan Hwy, Lacombe, LA 70445

 

Bayou Teche/Lower Atchafalaya Paddling Trail

Patterson, LA

Located about 90 miles west of New Orleans lies Bayou Teche. This paddling trail feeds into the Atchafalaya River, and runs through the historic town of Patterson, LA. From the trail you can see the Idlewild Plantation home and tons of bird species that are native to LA. This is a great beginner trail for those who have less experience on the water, plus there are several boat launches along the way that make it easy to launch.

Distance from New Orleans: 92 miles

Length of trail: 19 miles

Where to launch:

Jesse B. Hayes Memorial Boat Launch in Patterson, LA

GPS: 29.725370, -91.312225

Two Sisters Boat Launch in Bayou Vista, LA

Address: 199 2 Sisters Ct, Morgan City, LA 70380

 

Barataria Preserve Trails

Barataria, LA

Located in Jean Lafitte National Historical Park, the Barataria Trails are easily accessible from New Orleans and have seven interconnected waterways for paddling. Keep in mind that this preserve is home to a large alligator population and you should know how to handle gator encounters before taking your watercraft out on the bayou. These trails are great for bird watching, but fishing in the preserve is restricted to these waterways only: Bayou des Familles, Bayou Coquille, Kenta Canal, and Twin Canals.

Distance from New Orleans: 16 miles

Length of trail: 9 miles

Where to launch:

Barataria Canoe Launch

GPS: 29.804391, -90.119237

 

Okatoma Creek

Seminary, MS

Located outside of Hattiesburg, MS this fast-moving waterway is an offshoot of the Pascagoula River. If you’re looking for more of a challenging paddle, the Okatoma has got a few rapids that can be a lot of fun if you know what you’re doing. This is a popular paddling destination, so there are a few places near the creek that rent out canoes, kayaks and cabins if you’re in need. If you’re bringing your own watercraft, look out for the shuttle services in town that can bring you upstream.

Distance from New Orleans: 131 miles

Where to launch:

Seminary Boat Launch

Address: 1235 Old Hwy 49, Seminary, MS 39479

Okatoma Watercraft Rentals and Boat Launch

Address: 550 Walter Lott Road Seminary, MS 39479

Black Creek Canoe Trail

Brooklyn, MS

Black Creek is a scenic waterway with waterfalls and a popular destination for overnight river trips. With several kayak shuttle services and canoe rentals in the area, this is a great rafting destination for groups and families. The Black Creek cuts through Desoto National Forest, which means dispersed camping is permitted throughout as long as you’re 200 feet away from the water source.

Distance from New Orleans: 100 miles

Where to launch: 

Janice Landing

GPS: 30.994821, -89.051222

Fairley Bridge Landing

GPS: 30.919167, -88.967212

 

Bogue Chitto River

Bogalusa, LA

The Bogue Chitto is infamous for tubing trips and summertime revelry. If you’re looking for a peaceful nature retreat, I would float this river early in the day. By the afternoon, this river can turn into party central, especially on summer weekends. Regardless, it is a great place to float with your friends or beginner-level paddlers. There are several riverbanks where you can pull off and drink a beer or take a break from paddling.

Distance from New Orleans: 79 miles

Where to launch: 

Address: 10237 Choctaw Road, Bogalusa, Louisiana 70427

Address: 12409 Camp Cir Rd, Franklinton, LA 70438

 

Lake Martin

Breaux Bridge, LA

Lake Martin is located on a breathtaking wildlife preserve that sits just outside of one of the most historic and authentic Louisiana cities. Lafayette is rooted in cajun and creole tradition with it’s cuisine, music scene and native wildlife. Lake Martin is famous for gator spotting and serves as one of the state’s largest nesting colonies for water birds. With no strong current, this lake makes a great place for a relaxing paddle trip with guaranteed wildlife encounters.

Distance from New Orleans: 130 miles

Where to launch:

1209 Rookery Rd, Breaux Bridge, LA 70517

Honey Island Swamp

Slidell, LA

Throughout the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area lies the Honey Island Swamp, which was named after the area’s thriving bee population. This is the place to explore If you’re looking for a very traditional Louisiana swamp, complete with 6 ft gators, Great Blue Herons, nutria and bald eagles. There are several guided tours you can take in this area, but since the current on this bayou is mild – you won’t have a problem navigating these waters yourself.

Distance from New Orleans: 37 miles

Where to launch:

Crawford Landing Boat Ramp

Address: 41490 Crawford Landing Rd, Slidell, LA 70461

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