It may be too early in the year to officially declare it tubing season, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep dry. It doesn’t take a true outdoorsman to know that spring in Louisiana makes for paddling perfection. Having difficulty deciding where to start? Care to canoe and don’t have the goods? I’ve got you covered. Below, I’ve described a favorite waterway from different regions of the state. Listed among each waterway are nearby vessel renting and expedition services. For more information on paddling Louisiana, check out Louisiana Paddle’s official website.
Greater New Orleans
The Barataria Preserve (6588 Barataria Blvd., Marrero, La., (504) 689-3690, ext. 10) on the Westbank may be a stone’s throw away from the city, but the preserve’s protected waterways serve up a healthy helping of remote beauty. There are seven winding waterways available for canoeing or kayaking via Bayou des Familles, Twin Canals and Lower Kenta Canal. The canals have been overtaken by flora and offer stunning vistas of Barataria's sprawling swampland. Check water levels with the visitor’s center and plot your trip before heading out to the slough of your choice.
In New Orleans, you can rent everything you need from Massey’s Outfitters.
Tickfaw State Park (27225 Patterson Road, Springfield, La., (225) 294-5020) is a mongrel environment. Within a mile stretch, expect to encounter a cypress-and-tupelo swamp, a bottomland forest marked by hardwood trees and a mixed forest flecked with pine and more hardwood before reaching the banks of the Tickfaw River. The state park offers family-friendly canoe expeditions, a water playground and paved roadways for biking, hiking and other spring time activities.
For a small fee, the state park also provides canoes for rent.
Beginning near Fort Polk, the Ouiska Chitto, also called the Whiskey Chitto, cuts through Kisatchie National Forest, passing by “No Man’s Land” before spilling into the Calcasieu River. On the creek, paddlers will encounter bucolic views of grazing cattle and have intimate interactions with wild turkeys. In “No Man’s Land” you will be swimming, camping and fishing along the same sandy beaches Jean Lafitte and the privateers frequented.
T&J Canoe Rental Whiskey Chitto (11439 Highway 26, Mittie, (337) 639-2186) offers guided overnight trips. Something about falling asleep under some of the brightest stars in Louisiana after a long day of paddling sounds too good to be true.
Cajun Country II
Lake Martin is a few miles outside of Lafayette. It is an hour south of Mamou, but if you’re out there on a Saturday, you should absolutely venture to Mamou anyway, solely to make a pit stop at Fred’s (420 Sixth St., Mamou). You’ll know what I mean when you get there. Saturday morning, hang out at Fred’s until the music stops, you’ll still have ample time left to paddle Lake Martin before the sun descends behind the cypress and tupelo trees.
You can find Lake Martin nestled in the Cypress Island Preserve (1264 Prairie Highway, St. Martinsville (337) 342-2475) wherein you’ll encounter one of Louisiana’s largest nesting colony of water birds. Sure, you may have to exercise caution navigating around gators during the warmer months of the year, but during spring migration, the electric-looking sunset is worth it.
Pack & Paddle (601 E. Pinhook Road, Lafayette, (337) 232-5854) offers kayak rentals and the occasional guided expedition. Their website also has a really helpful rental section for information on many other day-trip worthy destinations.
If swift, clear streams are more your speed, head north. Toro Bayou provides easy white water sections, rocky falls and fast currents. If you’re not experienced, don’t go at it alone. Rather, get in touch with the folks at Tack-A-Paw Expeditions (2340 Toro Road, Anacoco, La., (337) 286-9337) to plan a trip on one of Toro’s three sections. Recently, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries named Toro Bayou as one of the best streams in the state for its clear water and natural appeal.