Swamp Tour- Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

The cute tour shack
About an hour west of Baton Rouge, off of I-10 is the cute community of Breaux Bridge. Nearby the town is a big lake, swamp and bayou. There are a few different tour companies that run swamp tours from this area, and we chose Champagne’s Cajun Swamp tours because they were responsive to my inquiries. 
My boys in the boat
After a few minutes of waiting around the shack, we were invited into our boat. The tours take place on boats with 12 other people, so the tours are small and the boats needed to be smaller and shallow bottomed to traverse some of the shallow portions of the swamp and boat roads. 

Cypress

After spending most of our time in marshes by the coast, it was nice to see some swamp that actually looked like the swamp I imagined. The scary trees with Spanish moss hanging down, the still water and algae growing, everything was very serene. Our guide had an awesome accent and a fun sense of humor. He was a pro at navigating through tight areas of the swamp and asked us what we wanted to see instead of just doing what he wanted. We started out going to check out an uninhabited alligator nest.

LOVE reflections

This tree below is 500 years old. At a certain point, the cypress trees stop growing taller and instead grow bigger around. They drop their bottom branches and start growing more branches at the top.

Old tree!
There were different kinds of cypress trees in the swamp. Bald cypress trees have the roots that come up and form “knees”. I think they are super cool. There was interesting moss growing on the bottoms of the trees as well. Most of the time the water around the boat was 1-2 feet deep! There were floating logs and roots and grasses all over and sometimes the boat would get stuck. Our guide was really good at getting the boat unstuck, but he announced several times that we should stay in our seats because if we stood up or changed the weight distribution of the boat, it would mess him up as he navigated the shallow water. 
Boat road
After a little while we went on a boat road. Boat roads are formed when boats go in shallow water when there is more water in the swamp, and then when the water recedes there is a slightly deeper channel that then boats can go through where normally they couldn’t. Now the water level is controlled by a levee and dam system so the water level does not drop as it used to. The boat road led through tall grasses and cattails to an alligator nest. 
That large mound is an alligator nest

 Alligator females lay eggs and incubate them. Depending on the temperature that the eggs are kept at, the babies are males or females. The babies are tiny when born and the biggest threat predator-wise to the newborns are fire ants! The ants like to take over the alligator nests. So sad! Babies stay with their moms for about 9 months before going out on their own. At this point they are still very small. Alligator moms are very protective of their nests and will attack humans if they come too close to the nest. The nest that we saw was not currently being used, because if humans invaded the nest area of an alligator, they may abandon the nest and the eggs. So they find old ones to show us.

Landon liked the boat ride but after awhile it got old for him and he started going back and forth in between mom and dad, and the seats in front of us. He would sit in his own seat, then in my lap, then in dad’s lap. Fortunately, his weight did not affect the weight distribution of the boat too much. For the last 20 minutes or so, he was just sitting on the bottom of the boat playing with the seats, but we had a fun time. 

After the alligator nest, we went out into the more open part of the lake. There were duck blinds that looked like mounds of branches all over the lake. There were even boat slips to hide the boats, and then the hunters get out of the boat and hide and wait for the ducks, then stand up and shoot them. It doesn’t seem fair to the ducks. 
After crossing part of the lake, we went into the grass and surface vegetation and that’s where the alligators were hiding. Most of the ones we saw in that area were small and only 1-3 years old, but it was neat to see them hanging out in their natural habitat. 

The guide did an awesome job finding alligators for us to see. I was not sure if they just stayed in one spot all day, so that once they took out a tour they could just point them out and find them more easily, or it really was different every time they took a group out! We went around the edge of the lake looking for more alligators. We had more luck back on the side of the lake by the tour office. There we saw several larger alligators just sitting on some logs. The first one even had its mouth open as we approached, then it jumped in the water before Austin could get a good picture.

Gator!

You can estimate the length of an alligator by how many inches are between its eyes and the end of its nose. This gator had its tail in the water, so it was hard to tell by looking at it how long it was without the nose to eye measurement trick.

He had a lot of tail under the water!
I was confused that his tail was so fat until I realized a lot of it was underwater

Great blue heron

Along with the gators, we saw all sorts of other wildlife. There were cormorants, great egrets, and great blue herons. There were also lots of turtles! As soon as we would approach in our boat (it wasn’t too noisy, but there was some noise involved with the motor), the turtles would hop into the water. It was so cute to see.

Tons of turtles!
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