Although New Orleans is a beautiful, vibrant city, it is not particularly well known for its wildlife apart from an abundance of stray cats and roaches. Gators are obviously significant in our culture, but when was the last time you saw one walking down Canal? Maybe yesterday. That’s not the point. The point is, where can you go to get in touch with nature when you’ve only got two hours to spare?
The answer lies just a half hour south of New Orleans, in Barataria: the Jean Lafitte Historical Park and Reserve.
Jean Lafitte is named for the famous French-American privateer who used the swamps and bayous for smuggling in the late 1800s, which is reason enough to explore the trails and boardwalks. Signs along the way reveal details from Jean Lafitte’s sordid story as well as significant locations and wildlife information. Historical drama aside, the park is absolutely gorgeous. Cypress trees, palmettos, and spanish moss are absolutely everywhere, and although I didn’t see much wildlife this time around there are usually some snakes — and the occasional alligator — resting along the boardwalks.
My suggestion is to visit now, before all the leaves fall off the trees! However, I’ve visited the park several times in the past year and each season brings out wonderful. Jean Lafitte, like New Orleans, is a place you need to get to know; that’s when you really start to see its beauty.