"Cajun Swamp: Lake Martin in Louisiana"
By James Knott
You can also find this video on my travel video web site - StrayCompass.com
TRANSCRIPT: Cajun Swamp, Lake Martin in Louisiana
"Right Now, we are at lake martin in cajun country, Louisiana. We're about
to take a boat out on the lake to see what we can see."
Our guide today is Bryan Champagne of Champagne's Swamp Tours. He¹s been
giving tours of the Lake Martin Swamps for eight years.
It's January, the trees have shed their leaves. a sepia tone swamp sits
beneath the pale blue sky.
"THE TREES IN HERE LOOK DEAD NOW BECAUSE THEY LOSE ALL THEIR LEAVES IN THE
WINTERTIME THEY¹RE NOT CONIFERS. THE BOTTOM OF THE TREES ARE BIG IN HERE
BECAUSE WATER IS KEPT IN HERE YEAR ROUND. SO IT SWELLS THEM UP. AND IT ALSO
LIKES A BASE. IN ORDER FOR THESE, YOU KNOW, TREES TO SURVIVE THAT KIND OF
CONDITIONAND NOT TIPPING THEM OVER."
"NEXT TREE COMING UP, WOULD BE THE ONE WITH THE RIDGES AROUND IT LIKE THIS
ONE TO THE RIGHT OR THE FRONT OR TO THE LEFT OR WHAT NOT. THAT¹S YOUR BALL
CYPRESS AND THAT¹S THE HARD WOOD, EXPENSIVE WOOD. "
"THEY ARE ALL TOTALLY PROTECTED RIGHT NOW OF CUTTING DOWN BECAUSE WATER IS
HERE YEAR ROUND. SO, NO CUTTING OF TREES, NO BRANCHES, NO ROOT SYSTEMS."
It's dropped into the 40S TODAY, NOT AN IDEAL DAY TO BE OUT, BUT BRIAN IS
PERSISTANT IN HIS SEARCH TO HELP US FIND THE SWAMPS TREASURES.
"THE HOLES IN THE TREES, Y¹ALL, IS DAMAGE BY YOUR SECOND LARGEST RODENT IN
THE WORLD. WHICH IS CALLED A NUTRIA A BIG RAT."
"Look in that hole in that tree to the left. see if we have any baby
nutrias in there."
None in that hole, but we find some baby nutria a few minutes later.
"There's a baby, just right here. not moving"
"There they go (nutria swimming). They'll get 15 pounds in size or bigger
than that. Those are babies couple of weeks old."
Lake Martin is known for the rookery where each season thousands of birds
come to nest from February to July. Access to the area is cut off then, but
right now we can still take the boat through the rookery and see some of the
first birds to arrive for the season.
"Off to the right, y'all, in the plants that's a great blue heron bird.
That's the one that's starting to nest right now. They'll eat fish, eels,
baby gators. That's why we don¹t have a lot of snakes, because the great
blue herons and gators eat them"
"This is just the beginning of it right now. within the next few months
you¹ll have thousands of birds."
"He's probably got a fish. Yep. look at that fish. Big Fish"
The trees are draped with a plant unique to the south.
"The gray in the trees is moss. Spanish moss and it's something that
actually got to be called that by spaniards with big beards, so it¹s not
from spain or moss. It's an air plant, y'all, which is an epiphyte (sp?)
that has no root system to it. It's also a plant that contains 25% WATER.
IT DOES MAKE A LITTLE YELLOW FLOWER, BUT BY THE TIME YOU SEE THE LITTLE
FLOWER, USUALLY THE AIR TAKES IT AND IT GETS PUT ON TREES AND WHAT NOT"
CRAWFISH IS A MAIN INGREDIENT IN CAJUN COOKING AND TRAPS IN THE SWAMPS CAN
BE USED TO CATCH THEM.
"SO WHEN WE PICK IT UP, YOU JUST GRAB IT LIKE THIS AND YOU JUST DUMP THEM.
Lake martin's most famous resident has to be the aligator. Most of the
gators are hibernating because of cold weather, but Bryan found an aligator
in the swamp and gives us a chance to appreciate it up close.
"It starts warming up, the gators start coming out. cold like it is right
now. They shut down because they are cold blooded."
Bryan tapes the mouth shut so the aligator can¹t bite us.
"But you see their legs help them climb on logs or when they are floating
all four of their legs are spread out. It's all their It doesn't help
them swimming whatsoever. Their legs just fold to the side. the Tail does
all the work in the water. If a gator loses their tail they can't swim"
"They can run up to 35 miles per hour on land straight, y'all, so if a gator
starts to chase you, run zig zags they can't keep up with you that way."
After a brief examination we put the aligator back into the swamp.
IT WAS A FASCINATING AND FUN TRIP, AND IF IT'S THIS GOOD IN JANUARY, THEN I
CAN ONLY IMAGINE WHAT IT'S LIKE IN WARMER PARTS OF THE YEAR. EACH SEASON
HAS IT'S OWN UNIQUE CHALLENGES AND REWARDS, SO I ENCOURAGE YOU TO COME CHECK
IT OUT FOR YOURSELF.