South Louisiana is not known for having very cold winters, but this year has been way different. We have had snow TWICE and a several occasions of freezing temperatures! It’s been almost a decade since it last snowed down here and I don’t think anyone was complaining about that. As outdoor guides, we try to help people get comfortable while being in nature. That included keeping them warm in winter months. There are a lot of people that are ill-prepared for such cold temperatures while we are paddling so we try to have extra gear on hand for them to wear.
Layering in the winter months is the key to staying warm while outdoors. What follows are some beginner tips that we use to help keep ourselves warm. We hope it helps keep you warm in the future.
Base layers are typically some type of moisture wicking material. The go-to for a lot of people is some sort of merino wool or synthetic material. It helps wick any moisture away from your skin. They can be very comfortable, once you find what works best for you. There are different thicknesses of a base layer, so choose your layer based on your level of activity. A super thick layer may not be your best bet if you are going on a tough hike in 30-degree weather. Think about a thinner base layer and go from there.
For the mid layer, think fleece jackets or some sort of puffy jacket. What you use will depend on what you will be doing. Again, there are a ton of options out there for mid layers. From this layer on out to the outer layer, I recommend some sort of heat releasing area, think zippers. If you start to get too warm, having zippers help release some of that heat but keeping you warm. The purpose of a mid-layer is to help trap the heat and keep it close to your body but you don’t want to get too sweaty so having an area where heat can escape is helpful.
This layer can be numerous types of options. Most people use some sort of puffy jacket as this layer. It can be down or synthetic material. If you are going to be in a damp/humid area then a synthetic material will work best because down does not hold in heat once it is wet. If you are in a dry cold, then down will be your best bet. This can also be a good wind protection layer, if chosen correctly.
You will often hear the word “shell” when talking about an outer layer. Think turtle shell, it protects form the elements. This is what the outdoor industry calls the outer layer. This layer is for any kind of wet and windy conditions. Most rain jackets act as a good wind shell as well. Depending on what you will be doing, this can also be a good insulating layer as well. If you are going to be in a windy situation but no rain, then a soft shell will be a good option. Soft shells are not waterproof, but some have a decent water repellency to them. It has some sort of lining in it that acts as a mid-layer and the outer material is wind resistant. It is usually a fleece material. If you are going to be in wet conditions, then a good rain jacket (hard shell) will be good. Many rain jackets have a zipper in the arm pit area, it helps release the heat that has built up over your activity. The hard shells don’t breathe too well though, so think about that when getting ready for a trip.
Always check conditions before you go out and layer accordingly. Many people only need a couple of layers. A base layer and a soft shell will be good in many situations. If going to an alpine region then a 4-layer situation might be needed. Find what works for you and you will be great. See you out there.
These prehistoric creatures still roam the earth today, only a bit smaller. They used to be about 2 feet wingtip to wingtip. These insects start as aquatic nymphs, living off smaller larva and insects. It has an amazing lower jaw that shoots out, captures prey with great accuracy then retracts back so it can devour its meal.
It spends most of its life as a nymph but after 2-5 years it will emerge as an adult. This is the next awesome change it goes through. It will crawl up some vegetation and begin to emerge as a terrestrial insect. The exoskeleton can be found on cypress knees, cattails and other aquatic vegetation. They can range from 1-3 inches in length. It takes a couple hours for their body to harden up to be able to fly, this is a very vulnerable stage in their life. After their wings dry out, they take flight in search for a meal.
They have 4 wings that are independent from each other. This allows some species to fly close to 60 mph! That makes them one of the fastest, if not THE fastest flying insect. They will eat many types of insects and are known to take down butterflies from time to time. While in a canoe or kayak, they will often sit high on vegetation facing into the wind. They do this to cool off. So, the next time you see a Dragonfly, think about how cool these creatures are.
Now nearing the end of May, visitors on our kayak tours can view several young osprey as they jostle about their parent’s nest. Located about midway to Lake Pontchartrain, the conspicuous nest is almost over the bayou, in a sturdy dead cypress tree. One of our guides photographed three nestlings which is more than the usual two. We believe they hatched earlier this month because at that time, the female began standing up in the nest. Her incubation time had lasted about two months from early March. The young will be visible for at least another month or well into June. As the weeks go by the nestlings will become more visible. Eventually on windy days in June, they will face the wind and try out something new – their wings. Hopping up and down or “helicoptering”, they will discover the miracle of flight. By mid-June, the newly fledged juveniles will leave the nest. However, they will frequently be around for more weeks as they both are fed by their parents and learn how to fish on their own. As guides who paddle Cane Bayou daily, we feel fortunate that every year, adult osprey raise their young within view on this bayou. The annual cycle of laying eggs, the incubation and then the feeding of the nestlings provides for our paddlers and kayaking guests insight into the raising of the young of this well-known water related raptor.
We know, we know. Of course you’re going to be paddling through every turn hoping an American Alligator will be around the bend and of course was want to make that dream come true but if you are only looking down focusing and searching for one thing you are probably missing a lot more wildlife around you. Spring is filled will more active wildlife of all kinds. Birds, turtles, frogs, insects, reptiles (yes including alligators) and many of them are looking for a mate or busy foraging for food to feed hungry newborns. During your kayaking adventure down the bayou we encourage everyone to scan the water but also the air, the tree line and the shore line to spot a variety of creatures. Here are a just a few photos of things that might be soaring, slithering and jumping around during our “Full Flavor” kayaking tour of Cane Bayou.
We are the #1 ranked boat tour on TripAdvisor.com in New Orleans. Here is why…
Established in 1972, for over 45 years Canoe and Trail Adventures (CTA) has provided to the Greater New Orleans community opportunities to experience and to learn about the habitats and wildlife of the great outdoors. Most of our kayaking, canoeing, hiking and camping outings are mostly to Louisiana wetlands north or northwest of New Orleans — all within an hour’s drive. CTA provides outings for visitors to New Orleans, school and parents’ groups, youth groups, corporate paddles and outings for the local public.
Each year, CTA operates over 300 guided kayak and canoe eco tours into Louisiana wetlands. Our professional guides provide information on the wetland habitats and any wildlife encountered. Throughout the year, CTA also guides and outfits canoeing and kayaking outings for local schools and universities. Most of these outings are for ecology or botany classes with the teacher or the professor providing some of the instruction. During June, CTA furnishes guides and canoes for summer camps whose youth paddle out to Lake Pontchartrain.
Several local schools each year schedule overnight outings to state parks or scenic rivers. CTA provides the guides/canoe instructors, the camping gear and the meals for these outings. Most students are 5th graders to 7th graders, with many middle schoolers perhaps spending their first night ever in a tent, sitting around a campfire or roasting marshmallows.
For parents’ groups, CTA offers canoes & kayaks group rentals for parents to paddle with their own child and connect with them outdoors – a parent and child experience that will long be remembered.
For the Louisiana Master Naturalist Program, approximately seven times a year, CTA outfits an outing timed to highlight a seasonal natural event. The outing is to learn about wetlands habitats and the management objectives of public lands.
For the public, on the Saturday before a full moon, CTA schedules a Moonlight Paddles into a Louisiana wetlands. The outings begin two hours before sunset so that paddlers can have daylight before reaching a sunset destination. After everyone has eaten their sunset meal and late twilight is approaching, the group paddles out of the wetlands using only their night vision – and the light of the moon. Coming back, the group paddles very slowly and quietly allowing paddlers to listen to night sounds. Day/night outings can be scheduled during the month regardless of whether moonlight is available or not. To paddle in near darkness is an intense experience but very doable with paddlers using their night vision.
Now CTA also offers Twilight Paddle Tours in kayaks and canoes, both pre-scheduled and upon request. These Twilight Paddles differ from the Moonlight Paddles by the phase of the moon but also by the group size. We keep the Twilight Paddle outings under 15 paddlers for a small group experience.
We also offer kayak and canoe rentals year round for those looking to explore on their own. These rentals are designed as self guided tours and include not only your canoe or kayak but a waterproof case to protect your phone and car keys. Plus a map of the paddle route including scenic highlights along the way.
What is our goal at Canoe and Trail Adventures? Whether it’s a peaceful kayaking tour through the swamp or a nature hike with 30 students our goal is to offer each guest an outdoor experience that makes lifelong memories.
Our Moonlight Paddles are one of our most popular events for locals in the New Orleans area. Here is a list of the dates for our Moonlight Paddles coming up this year:
Feburary 4: Manchac Swamp
March 11: Cane Bayou
April 8: Cane Bayou
May 6: Cane Bayou
June 3: Manchac Swamp
July 8: Cane Bayou
August 5: Cane Bayou
September 2: Manchac Swamp
November 4: Manchac Swamp
Join us for one or all of them!
Thu 13th Planting of bald cypress seedlings in the Lake Maurepas area. Volunteer with Coalition for the Restoration of Coastal Louisiana (CRCL) and or Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation (LPBF). First of seven planting days in local wetlands during the coming weeks.
Tue 17th Orleans Audubon Society Monthly Meeting at 7 pm at the Unitarian Church at 6690 Fleur de Lis Drive. Program – “Is lead contaminating our urban birds?
Fri 20th Arbor Day For Louisiana, the day to recognize planting of trees is always the third Friday of January. Nationwide most states observe Arbor Day on the fourth day of April but southern states have earlier dates.
Sat 21st Long leaf seedlings planting by volunteers for the Nature Conservancy at the Talisheek Preserve (near Abita Springs).
Sat 21st In New Orleans, this date is statistically the coldest day of the year based on historic weather records according to WeatherSpark.
Sun 29th Planting at the Delacroix Preserve by volunteers for Woodlands Conservancy. First of three days of planting over a three week period.
Fri 2nd World Wetlands Day – A day to recognize and appreciate the value of wetlands that are scattered about the world
Sat 4th Moonlight Paddle into Manchac Wetlands. In the day time, our flotilla will observe the “winterize” view of the forested and marsh habitats that make up these wetlands located northwest of New Orleans. After sunset, our intrepid paddlers will weave their way out of the wetlands under a high-in-the-sky first quarter moon. The route will be determined by the water level in the labyrinth of waterways that overlay the wetlands. Meeting time will be at 4 pm, with sunset about 5:40 pm and return to launch about 7:30 pm.
Sun 12th Sierra Club meeting at Audubon Zoo. Social time at 6:30 with the program at 7 pm.
Tue 21st Orleans Audubon Society Monthly Meeting at 7 pm at the Unitarian Church on Fleur de Lis.
Sat thru Tue 25th to 28th (Mardi Gras weekend) Horn Island campout offshore of Biloxi, MS. Instead of the wilds of Bourbon Street, consider spending four days and three nights on a remote and peaceful island. Daily activities can include: Beachcombing on miles of white sandy beaches looking for treasure either manmade or by nature. Noting the variety of habitats that occur from the Gulf of Mexico to the Mississippi Sound (expansive beach, tidal pools, dunes with freshwater lagoons, saltwater marshes or pine forests and a thin steep beach facing the mainland. Observing the wildlife that may be represented by flocks of birds either in the sound, on the beaches or in the ponds or by dolphins arcing their way through the surf. Canoe and Trail provides a trip leader and assistants, the deep sea fishing boat to reach and to return from Horn, the outdoor kitchen with hot meals and camping gear – tents and sleeping combo if needed. Individual campers provide personal items, appropriate clothes and raingear, lunches and water (a checklist is provided). The fee is $350 for one or if related $675 for two. For a memorable Mardi Gras but not for the usual reasons, come with us to experience for four days and three nights an outing that will provide a lifetime of memories.
Fri pm thru Sun 3rd to the 5th Camp Fest – Louisiana Hiking Club at Chicot State Park. This is a weekend of hiking, lessons in outdoor skills, eating well and socializing with like minded persons. Chicot State Park with its woods and reservoir is an excellent setting for this event.
Fri afternoon thru Sat 10th and 11th Environmental Conference sponsored by the Tulane Law School The conference is on Friday afternoon and Saturday on the Tulane University campus with usually three panels at a time. This conference is the best opportunity of the year to learn about current and future environmental issues. Free to the public. Highly recommended!!
Sat 11th Moonlight Paddle – Destination and route to be determined.
Sun 12th Daylight Savings begins for 2017. The link is to a Wikipedia article with more information (pages) than most will want to know about this well intended energy saving idea.
Thu 16th “Restoration Road Show” organized by CRCL in the Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge near Lacombe.
Mon 20th Spring begins – vernal equinox occurs when day and night hours are almost equal in length. The spring season for New Orleans begins at 5:29 am. The link is to another Wikipedia article with pages again about this annual solar event.
Thu – Sun 23rd to 26th Paddle Bayou LaFourche sponsored by Barataria – Terrebonne National Estuary Program (BTNEP) One can paddle for one day, the weekend or all four days on this historic waterway. Fee includes some meals and camping space for the three evenings. Canoes are available to rent from BTNEP. The principal appeal of the event is the entire package of meeting other paddlers while enjoying the culture of the people who live along the bayou. (The link has 2016 dates but will eventually have the 2017 dates.
Sun 16th Easter
Sat 22nd Earth Day Since 1970, the annual day to demonstrate support for environmental protection of the earth’s natural resources.
Later in 2017
Sun to Sun September 10th to 17th. Base camp in Zion National Park in southwestern Utah with tent camping at a group site and then daily forays to explore Zion National Park by hiking and touring. This will be our seventh annual week long campout in or near a national park. Each day, groups of base campers set forth to hike on trails which in Zion may be vertical or horizontal. Others may choose for a day or so to drive to and explore other nearby national public lands. Others will participate in ranger led activities or talks. In the evenings, everyone gathers for a hearty meal and much socializing around the campfire. If you are interested, just send a note to email@example.com with the heading “Zion campout”. We hope you can join us as we explore and experience another one of America’s outdoor jewels.
Here in South Louisiana, our winter has not been too cold. We had a cold snap but mostly it’s been a mild winter. Since it has not been too cold, the wildlife has been out and about. Our kayak and canoe trips have been seeing a good bit of wild life on our swamp tours. Please take a look at some of the pictures our guides have taken this month. See you on the water!
The past 2 months have been great on the bayou. Our staff has always enjoyed birding. Some of them are better at identifying them while others are just starting to learn and enjoy it (me). Here are a few pictures we have been able to get over the past few weeks. Some are easily identified, while others may need some work.
We have seen more, but they are hard to get pictures while canoeing or kayaking in the swamps. If you are interested in starting to learn birds, join us for a paddle!
Stay warm and enjoy this season! See you on the water.
See if you know them…answers below.
A-Great Blue Heron
B-Great Egret (front) and American Coots (back)
E-Horned Grebe (migratory bird)
F-American Coots (migratory bird)
G-We believe it’s Red-Shoulder Hawks
When you hear the word “master”, what comes to your mind? Growing up I always thought of it as something to do with school. Since I wasn’t a big fan of school I never had any desire to get “extra education”. The older I get the more I realize that I am wanting to learn more and more about all the things outdoors. Whether it is bettering my physical skills dealing with the outdoors or learning more about the natural history of the area and identification flora and fauna. That is where this Master Naturalist comes into play. I have heard of the program for a few years and was not ever able to take it. This fall I was able to partake in the class. We have had several meeting in various areas of Southeast Louisiana. We have learned about the geology of the area and how the Mississippi River created this region. We have learned about a ton of plants and trees. We have learned about all types of animals and their part in our ecosystem. We have learned about our coastline and issues dealing with land loss. There is so much we have learned, and still have much to learn. Each time we have a workshop we have professionals in that particular field come and talk for the first half of the day. The second half of the day is application. This whole course is a certification process for continuing your own personal knowledge. To complete the certification, you must also have a certain number of volunteer hours and continuing education hours also.
This class has been a ton of fun and would recommend it to anyone who is wanting to learn more about the natural history. You will get to meet people from different walks of life who have the same passion as you. If you are wanting to learn more, here is the link to the local chapter.