Stand-up paddlers in Louisiana have the unique opportunity to take advantage of the many bayous throughout the state. Bayous are fantastic locations for paddling, as they usually lack the same kinds of hazards as busier bodies of water. Below you’ll find five of our favorite places to paddle in Louisiana, including four great bayous and a wildlife preserve that will take your breath away.
Paddle through the bayou and canal along the Barataria Preserve Trails, where you’ll find 20,000 acres of land, including swamps, marshes, and forests. Keep an eye out for alligators and over 300 species of birds. Make sure to call ahead and familiarize yourself with your route, because aquatic vegetation growth can make for difficult hazards to avoid. Paddlers of all skill levels will enjoy the trip.
The Bayou Bartholomew is designated as a Scenic and Natural Waterway, and, at 365 miles, is considered the longest bayou in the country. According to the website description, “It is the longest un-dammed waterway on the Lower Mississippi River…paddlers know that un-dammed rivers are the wildest and most scenic.” In other words, you won’t have to worry about a dam interrupting your day on the water. Keep an eye on rain conditions, as heavy rainfall before a paddling trip can make the trail more treacherous for new paddlers.
Bayou Lafourche covers the 65 miles from Donaldsonville to Leesville, and is known as “the longest Main Street in the world.” The bayou is a major commerce waterway—paddlers, be aware that you’ll be sharing it with lots of others. The Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program plans an annual 50-mile paddling trip every year. Serious paddlers are sure to want to get involved.
Bayou Segnette State Park offers boating, fishing, canoeing, picnicking, playgrounds, and salt- and freshwater fishing. You might see alligators, nutria, opossum, raccoon, mink, and many other animals along your journey. Make sure to bring your own paddle equipment with you, as you won’t be able to easily rent any nearby. In addition, campgrounds on-site make it easy to spend the night and make a weekend out of your trip.
The Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge boasts 18,000 acres along the Lake Pontchartrain coast. You’ll find birdwatchers, anglers, hunters, bikers, photographers, and water sports fanatics all along the lake. Various “habitat zones” exist on the refuge, containing “diverse combinations of plant communities.” The lake provides a perfect setting for stand-up paddling.