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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
This fall has been a blast so far! Here are a few pictures we have taken on our trips! We are excited to start seeing our migratory birds coming in too. We have been seeing a flock of American Coots at Lake Pontchartrain! Hopefully the Grebes will be making a showing soon!
Sat 17th Beach Sweep coordinated by the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation This is the annual national wide cleanup of waterways. Contact the LPBF to volunteer as an individual or with an organization.
Sat 17th Bogue Falaya River Sweep coordinated by the “Keep Covington Beautiful”.
Sat 17th River Clean-Up on the Pearl coordinated by the “Honey Island Conservation Program”.
Sat 17th to 24th National Estuary Week coordinated by Restore America’s Estuaries.
Tue 20th Wine and Cheese Social – Crescent City Bird Club at Unitarian Church at 7 pm. RSVP to Joelle at email@example.com. This social gathering begins the fall season of birding outings to local destinations, monthly meetings of the Audubon Society Orleans Chapter and a fall banquet on October 18th.
Thu 22nd Autumnal Equinox occurs at 9:21 am. The sun passes over the equator to shine for more than 12 hours a day for the next six months on the Southern Hemisphere.
Sat 24th Forest Fest at the Woodlands Conservancy on the west bank. A day of talks, walks, music and food – from 10 am to 2 pm.
Sat 24th Dune Restoration Day along the Cameron Coast (11th anniversary of hurricane Rita) in southwestern Louisiana. Coordinated by the Coalition for the Restoration of Coastal Louisiana (CRCL). A two mile section of the beach will be planted with marsh plugs. Volunteers are needed for this planting.
Sat 24th Birding outing to Seabrook Bridge and Couturie Forest in City Park 8 am sponsored by the Crescent City Bird Club. This birding event is the first of ten scheduled through fall and early winter. All events are on Saturdays with most outings half day in the greater New Orleans area. (The quickest way to learn how to identify birds is to go with knowledgeable birders. They can both identify the birds but more important will explain what field marks they used for an id.)
Sat 24th Public Lands Day – no fee to enter a national park.
Sun 25th LOOP’s (Louisiana Outdoor Outreach Program) City Challenge Course Day at City Park The public will have an opportunity to be on three rope courses that include eight high elements. Two afternoon sessions for individuals are scheduled to be facilitated by LOOP’s instructors.
Thu 6th Monthly meeting of the Louisiana Hiking Club in Baton Rouge. Their calendar lists monthly meetings, second Saturday hikes, paddles, bike rides and Audubon birding events.
Fri 7th Wings and Wine at the Wild Bird Center of Covington – a fundraiser for the NorthLake Nature Center near Mandeville. $25 per person. The nature center has a calendar of all sorts of outdoor activities — Nature strolls, bike rides and more – much more.
Sun 9th Paddling for Preservation – a fund raiser for the Louisiana Land Trust for Louisiana (LTL). This is LTL’s fifth annual paddling outing but on a “new” river. This year’s outing will be on the Bogue Falaya in Covington. The trip fee is $40 per paddler which includes the canoe and paddling accessories. During and after the outing, there will be discussion of the goals of the LTL program and National Park Service’s Three Rivers Blueway Program of Covington. To sign up and pay on line go to this link on Canoe and Trail Adventure page.
Sun 9th Sierra Club, Orleans Chapter monthly meeting at Audubon Zoo. Social time at 6:30 pm with program at 7 pm.
Fri 14, Sat 15th and Sun 16th Paddle Fest sponsored by the Bayou Haystackers Paddling Club at Fontainebleau State Park. A weekend to paddle, learn new skills, meet new people and enjoy the outdoors.
Sat 15th Wild Things (Open House by the US Fish and Wildlife Service) in Lacombe. Now in its 19th year, Wild Things is among the largest U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service outreach events nationwide. Held at the headquarters in Lacombe, Louisiana, this family event includes the Youth Wildlife Art Competition, photography, canoe and pontoon boat tours, wildflower walks, over 40 guest exhibitors, live animals, hayride, casting pond, kids activity tent, bird house building, food, and live music. Admission, parking, tours and music are all FREE.
Sat 15th Moonlight Paddle into the Cane Bayou/Big Branch Marsh Refuge near Mandeville Usually in the fall, there are more blooms in the marshes than at any other season of the year. If the water in the refuge is up, our flotilla can range out into the open ponds of the refuge enroute to Lake Pontchartrain. The moon will be the Hunter’s Moon – the most famed moon of the year with symbolism for many cultures throughout the world. On the return from the lake, our paddlers will be asked to quietly paddle back under the light of the full moon so that the sounds and the sights of the nighttime wetlands can be fully appreciated.
Tue 8th Election Day
Fri 11th Veterans Day – no fee to enter a national park.
Sat 12th Moonlight Paddle into the Manchac Wetlands northwest of New Orleans. In the fall season, bald cypress take on an orange/brown color plus tallows and maples may have red and orange tints to their leaves. All of this seasonal foliage makes for the most colorful time of the year in these nearby wetlands. Meeting time will be an early 3 pm because daylight savings will have ended a week earlier.
The other day I was out driving home from work and was in a turn lane that allows 2 cars to turn at the same time. I was in the right side of this double turn lane and as the light turned green the car to my left decided to try and move into my lane WHILE TURNING! I blew my horn to alert them in hopes they would move back into their lane. The next moment I swerved into the grass avoiding getting hit by the other driver. As my nerves calmed down, I began to think about all the adventures sports I enjoy doing. I love whitewater kayaking, rock climbing, backpacking, hiking, triathlons and driving. Yes you read that right, driving is an adventure sport. It is one of THE MOST DANGEROUS activities one can do. You are in control of a very large metal box and it seems that now a days, people are paying less and less attention while at the wheel. This is scary…
The same can almost be said for motor boats and paddle crafts. I have had a few close calls while on the water. On a lot of bayous we paddle, there are slow turns and those driving motor boats tend to move way too fast. I can understand going fast on open water, but I feel that the swamps of South Louisiana are places where motor boats need to slow down and watch for paddle crafts. We all have a right to be on the water to go exploring. Please make sure you are paying attention while on the bayous. It does not matter if you are riding a bike, trying to avoid getting hit by a car or a motor boat looking out for paddle crafts. The outdoors are amazing and should be enjoyed without worrying too much about your safety…a little worry is normal.
See you out there!
Adventure does not start until something goes wrong.
What started out as a typical Twilight Paddle turned into an unexpected Adventure. Our Twilight Paddles usually start about 2 hours before sunset. Summers in South Louisiana are always hot with a summer shower pretty much daily. We check the weather on a regular basis to make sure it’s not going to be bad enough to cancel a trip. This day was no different…or so we thought. The morning paddles went well with no bad weather looming overhead. We thought we were clear for the trip. We got the gear ready and headed to the launch where we met the group who was a few minutes early. While the gear was being prepped for the trip, to watch the sunset over Lake Pontchartrain, the group and I talked about what all was to be expected. After a short introduction to kayaking and a brief history lesson of the area we set off. The sky was clear and we were all set for a great trip to the lake. About 30 minutes into the paddle we heard some thunder. I pulled out my phone to look at the weather in the area and the only rain cell was to our west in Ponchatoula (about 30 miles away). With the rain cell so far away, we decided to continue with the paddle. It would be really great to see the sunset while watching a rain storm in the distance. We continue paddling down the bayou, and I talk about the area’s flora and fauna.
Fifteen minutes later we saw lightning strike in the distance. Again, the phone was pulled out because there was a darker cloud forming to our west. This was an unexpected update, the cell that was 30 miles away had grown to now cover a much larger area and was heading our way. The cell was about ten miles away so we decided to make a push to at least go see the lake then head back. When we arrived at the lake the storm had moved to right above us, so we turned around and started to head back toward the launch.
Then the rain started.
While we were heading back, the lightning was getting worse and closer. I made a decision that we should get off the water before the launch. We headed to our emergency pull off location. It is in Fontainebleau State Park but not anywhere near the main entrance. We pulled the boats out of the water and took cover under a tree. Some were worried that taking cover under a tree was not a good idea, but this particular tree was nowhere near the biggest one in the area, so we were good. We waited under this tree for about 10 minutes. I decided to check my phone again to what was going on and saw the rain cell getting bigger with a lot of red in our area.
We made our move to better shelter.
The nearest place I knew of was the group camp in Fontainebleau State Park and it was about a 10 minute walk from where we were. The group gathered a few personal items and I grabbed the flashlights. We started our rainy walk down the trail to the camp. While walking through the woods, we had to knock down many Orb Weaver webs. These webs stretched across the entire width of the trail. There was no ducking or going around these webs…sorry spider friends. When we made it to the group camp, we headed for the bathrooms. This was our safe haven for the next 30 minutes or so. The mosquitoes were getting so bad, we had to go inside the bathrooms for a while. As the lightning began to slow down, I checked the radar again and it looked like we had a clear section coming up. I talked with my group and we decided to go for it. The rain was pretty much done and so was the lightning. As we walked back, we used our lights to guide our way back to the boats.
Upon arrival back to the boats, we had to dump all the water that had gathered in the boats and proceeded to launch back onto the bayou. It was now 9pm and we still about 15 minutes to paddle back to the launch. This was a beautiful time to be out. The weather was calm, no bugs and a slight breeze. This did not last too long. We were 5 minutes from the launch and it began to lightning again. This time it was far enough away where we did not have to worry about it too much. One strike was so bright, it lit up the sky. As the weather was starting to take a turn for the worse, we pulled up into the launch site. The guests grabbed all their gear, loaded up and took off. I was left to pick up everything. As soon as they got out the parking lot, the sky’s opened up AGAIN! A down-pour this time while I was loading gear. I was throwing paddles, PFDs and all other gear needed back in the truck. I loaded the boats on the trailer and took off. As soon as I got to our office, it pretty much stopped raining. This rain storm was all of ten minutes. That was enough time to get me soaked to the bone. I unloaded the gear that needed to dry out and sat down trying to process what all had just happened. I was smart enough to bring dry clothes this day, so I changed and went home.
I have been living the outdoor lifestyle for some time now, and I have had my fair share of rainy day adventures. This one, even though short was a great one. I feel in my years of doing this kind of work, it has led me to be comfortable in rainy or hard situations, where it is important to stay calm and try to keep everyone else calm. In this particular one, no one was freaking out, but they could have been. I have been in a few with young kids, where they were freaking out and I was the only one who could calm them down. If I freak out, they freak out double! I have learned to keep my cool under pressure and do what I know is right and safe. It is my job and desire that all who come on trips with us are safe and taken care of.
If you want your own adventure like this, then start getting outside as much as you can, and I’m sure it will happen one day. Just like the Boy Scout motto says, Be Prepared! Now, get out there and Live the Adventure!
Photos by Tim and Robin Dunford
Did you know that Lake Pontchartrain isn’t really a lake? It is an Estuary, making it one of the most productive natural habitats in the world. Fish, frogs, snakes, blue crabs, migratory birds, river otter… they all need our Lake in order to thrive.
Our lake is also home to a special clam known as the Rangia Clam (Rangia Cuneata). In early history the Rangia was a non nutritious food source for the early Native Americans around the Lake. They would discard the empty clam shells in the same refuse pile leaving behind evidence of their campsites in locations known as Middens. There are a couple of locations along our adventure path on Cane Bayou.
In the early 1930’s Rangia Clams became dredged for uses such as driveways, roadways, parking lots, levees, and the production of cement. The harvest of the clams yielded a gross annual value of $34 Million for the industry in the 1980’s.
However, in the late 1970’s the turbidity of the lake became dense and grossly polluted prompting the lake to be closed to swimming. The amount of Rangia clams left to filter out pollutants wasn’t enough to keep the volume of the lake clean and clear.
In 1990 the harvesting of Rangia Clams was banned and rather quickly the clam population and the water quality began to rebound. It is estimated that today there are around 400 clams per square meter that can filter the volume of the lake in about 4 days! As the healthy clams die off they leave behind their empty shells making the lake bottom even healthier for fish habitats.
Rangias could be considered a keystone species in the fact that their numbers play a huge role in the environment and without them Lake Pontchartrain wouldn’t be the thriving ecosystem so many of us love and enjoy today. We have to give a big shout out to these little guys doing a huge job! 629 square miles of water is a lot to clean!