Louisiana Waterways: Atchafalaya Basin

June 15, 2004

Mrs. Skinnyonbenny and I went on an adventure Saturday. One of the things that we are trying to make a point to do is to explore some of the waterways in Louisiana. So, we went to Henderson to paddle in the swamp, to see what was out there.

Before paddling, we went to the Zydeco brunch at Cafe Des Amis in Breaux Bridge. This activity was recommended by Jim, our former neighbor who can be spotted dancing at many of the local events where there is live music outdoors. It turns out that the place is pretty happening on Saturday mornings. There were people packed in there drinking and dancing like it was 11:00 on Saturday night. The band and the dance floor takes up half of the cafe, and the show was pretty good. We were about the only table not drinking. The food can be recommended.


After brunch, we slid over to Henderson to launch into Henderson lake, which is part of the Atchafalaya river basin. The basin is a big swamp, hemmed in by levees on the east and west side. It's the marshy gunk that you cross on Interstate 10 between Baton Rouge and Lafayette.

I chose the first boat ramp that we hit, and the ground was covered in wet, rotting weeds. Amazingly, it smelled like dead animals. Jambalaya shop anyone?

We launched on the west side, and quickly paddled to an area that is primarily moss covered Cypress trees and water hyacinth. This is a very good paddle. We didn't see any alligators or snakes (is that good or bad?), but there were plenty of birds.

The folks out fishing are friendly to the paddlers. I have to admit, I did get made fun of for not knowing what duckweed was. If you get caught in a conversation about marsh plants, just pretend like you do know duckweed. Trust me on this one.

Lessons Learned
  1. Bring a map and a compass. Just for the assurance.
  2. Omlettes beforehand can lead to heartburn.
  3. Go early in the morning when it's June. Louisiana is hot and humid as the Jurassic period.

I know it is stupid, but we did go out without a map or compass. I can see where it might get easy to get turned around out there, but we never got too far out of sight of the levee, and I figured as long as I follow the levee, I'll get back to where I started (or at least to some civilized spot).

Coming home, we had the natural inclination to try to find some fresh fish. I followed a signed for a seafood market, and when we found the market, it was just a metal Sears out building set up next to the people's garage. We pushed a buzzer to get them out of the house, and spent our little bit of cash on a part of their catch. It was pretty good catfish, although Daisy managed to knock half of it into the bushes in an unmonitored moment.