Jean Lafitte Visitor's Center TrailVisitor's Center Trail

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve

Barataria Preserve

Chef Emile's Visitor's Center Trail Log

May 26, 2008

Cypress TreeThe Visitor's Center Trail is more of a walk rather than a trail. It is completely decked so it is wheel chair and baby stroller accessible.  The decking is built only 10" - 12" above the water line, so you can get up close and personal with the plants, bugs, reptiles and amphibians!  There are plenty of wooden benches along the way for people to sit and enjoy the swamp. And I do mean enjoy, it is quite an experience.  Visitor's Center Cypress Tree BenchThe swamp is ALIVE with life! The sounds of bull frogs croaking, birds chipping and "things" rustlin' in the weeds. I would suggest to bring some mosquito repellant and some water, even in May there are bugs and it is HOT!


The Trail is only .25 miles long and in that short distance you see how the swamp turns to marsh with plenty of flowering plants, frogs and even BIGGER things! Cypress KneesMany people's first thought of a swamp is how bad it smells, but that is not true. There really is no unpleasant smell.  I think that is because you are not disturbing the mud beneath the water. That is where much of decay occurs. The pic on the left shows that much of the water is covered with Duck Weed and there are several stands of Cypress Knees.  These are the root systems where the root actually grows upright and out of the ground.  Pickerelweed, (Pontederia cordata)When I was a kid my dad went out into the swamp, cut them at the waterline, then peeled the bark from the knee, then varnish the hard wood and made a lamp!

The swamp has many flowers, one of the most prolific is the Pickerelweed (pic on right) there are several stands of this throughout the park. Quite beautiful!


Palmetto Trail IntersectionThe Visitor's Center Trail intersects the Palmetto Trail.  This trail has been closed since Katrina.  That is a travesty!  The Palmetto Trail was one of the most popular trails in the park. It was totally decked and ran northwest ward about a mile then intersected the Bayou Coquille Trail.  The park is owned and Gray squirrel, Barataria Preserverun by the Feds. If they can't come up with the money to fix their own property, how can local citizens be chastised on not fixing their property timely, fashion??



There are sooooo many things to see in the trees along the trail. We saw this gray squirrel (pictured left, on the branch between the two cypress trees), three GIANT black and red woodpeckers, many smaller (unidentified) birds and hundreds of dragonflies.

Dragonfly, Barataria Preserve

Ann was taking this pic of the dragonfly that had lighted just beyond the deck, she was leaning over, when we discovered this 5 foot alligator just under her feet. ALLIGATOR!!! Barataria PreserveIt was lying in the water, just inches from the deck.  Then it decided to calmly crawl away! WOW!

The couple we saw along the trail said that they had talked to the Park Ranger and he said that they probably wouldn't see an alligator along this trail.  At the end of our walk we went into the Visitor's Center and chatted with him. He did confide that people had reported this alligator before!Frog



Frogs were everywhere! The croaking was a beautiful noise! And in the water were literally millions of tadpoles! From my trails taken in the Palm Springs Deserts and Texas you are looking for life signs, in Louisiana you are surrounded by abundant life.

The Visitor's Center Trail ends with a beautiful view of a true South Louisiana Marsh! This panorama overlooks acres of purple water irises. I would suggest that you view the Google Map below by clicking on the Hybrid view,Marsh at the end of the Visitor's Center Trail you can clearly see that at the bottom left of our track the swamp opens up to marsh.

Emile and Ann at the marsh overlook.

Visitor's Center Trail Log Notes and Map My Garmin calculated that we walked a total of .52 miles (that is to the end and back to the parking lot).

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Chef Emile L. Stieffel, Aurora Catering, Inc. email address:
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