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The Great Outdoors Beckons Along the Louisiana Coast

Louisiana Coast, May 2016 – The unique geography of the Louisiana Coast, which makes up more than 40 percent of the nation’s wetlands, is one of the main draws for visitors to this beautiful and environmentally diverse area. As for how to get out and explore this fascinating habitat, opportunities abound. Boat tours and kayak trips allow for an up-close and interactive look at the swamps, marshes and bayous the crisscross the coast, while winding nature trails offer a glimpse at the abundant flora and fauna found here at a more relaxed pace. Regardless of the method of access, time spent exploring the great outdoors along Louisiana’s coast will leave visitors longing to return.

For wildlife sightings, there are few experiences that rival Grosse Savanne Eco-tours in Calcasieu Parish. Located smack-dab in the middle of the Creole Nature Trail—affectionately known as “Louisiana’s Outback”—Gross Savanne has more than 50,000 acres spanning a multitude of ecotypes including both fresh and salt water marshes, cypress swamps, native coastal prairies, pine forest plantations, and agricultural lands. Marsh boat tours through the company’s 500 acres of private marsh allow for sighting countless alligators, a plethora of birds and numerous native plant species … not to mention a one-of-a-kind opportunity to get more familiar with this fascinating ecosystem in the company of a knowledgeable guide. Two-hour, half-day and full-day eco-tours are available, as well as birding tours (both on land and in the marsh) and photography tours using well-placed blinds for capturing wildlife images.

Adventurous types will love hopping into a kayak for a trip through one the many waterways that wind through the Louisiana Coast. At Bayou Adventure, an outfitter in St. Tammany Parish, guests can rent kayak gear and spend the day exploring on their own (with the guidance of owner and local paddle expert Shannon Griffin) as well as signing up for guided tours. One of the most popular launch sites here is Cane Bayou, which empties into Lake Pontchartrain and borders Fontainebleau State Park and Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge. This scenic waterway boasts moss-draped trees, a gator or two, great blue herons, osprey, otters, egrets and more. Shannon’s popular new sunset kayak tours depart before dusk; guests paddle to the mouth of the bayou and watch the gorgeous sun set over Lake Pontchartrain before paddling back with headlamps to light the way.

Navigating the bayous and marshes along the Louisiana coast by boat or kayak isn’t for everyone, so for those who want to experience the state's wildlife in a natural setting while keeping two feet on the ground, nature trails set on National Wildlife Refuges offer a family-friendly and relaxed alternative. Located just outside Houma, the Mandalay National Wildlife Refuge is a 4,419-acre refuge featuring freshwater marsh and cypress-tupelo swamp. The best way to access the refuge is via the one-mile nature trail, where visitors can get a glance of various species of birds as well as one of Louisiana’s most infamous wild animals, the American alligator. For the average walker, the nature trail is estimated to take about 45 minutes round-trip, and the trail is also accessible by car.

The Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge has four hiking trails located in St. Mary Parish, all of which allow visitors to access the 9,000-acre plus refuge, which acts as a habitat for Louisiana black bear. The Palmetto Trail, on the Garden City Unit, is about two miles in length and was once an oilfield location that was returned to the wild in the 1950s. In addition to possible bear sightings, other wildlife species of interest here include wading birds, ducks, alligators and bald eagles. The Garden City Trail is approximately three miles long, one way, and encompasses a 300-foot boardwalk overlooking a cypress tupelo swamp. The Centerville Unit Trails, which allow hikers to choose anywhere between a 1/4- and a 2-mile hike, are established on old dikes created from sugar cane drainage ditches. They are minimally maintained and provide an excellent bird watching experience in a bald cypress-tupelo swamp. Other outdoor adventures available along the Louisiana Coast include biking, camping, fishing, golf and outdoor festivals.

For a complete list of outdoor activities, visit the Louisiana Tourism Coastal Coalition website. Collectively known as the Louisiana Tourism Coastal Coalition (LTCC), the coastal parishes of Louisiana promote natural, recreational and cultural experiences to residents of and visitors to these parishes.

The LTCC is also an advocate for the sustainable development of coastal communities and protection of the area’s fragile wetlands. ###

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