South Louisiana canoeing

Howdy. I am not too familiar with southern Louisiana at all but was looking to hopefully do a 2-3 day trip in late Feb. My wife is going to visit her friend at LSU and I was hoping to bring the boat along for some winter paddling while the gals gab it up in town. I was looking at some of the wildlife refuges but wanted to ask if anyone had any suggestions as to some good places to look at that are within an hour or so from Baton Rouge. I’ll be in a Wenonah Wilderness, if that matters. Thank you for any info.

atchafalaya basin
lots of good paddling down there. lake fausse point state park has some paddle in campsites and has safe parking for your vehicle. along the levee’s you can put in at many landings, but your vehicle will be vulnerable to break-ins. would recommend day trips from most landings unless you can arrange to leave the vehicle at a residence. grand river has lots of options for paddling, as does bayou sorrel. been a few years since i was down there, but perhaps this will help some. truly, a unique and beautiful area to explore. -h

Here’s where I would go
Lucky you. The Achafalaya Basin has fascinated me since I first learned about it.

Lots and lots of other info will come up if you search the name, maybe adding words like “canoe trails” etc.

Might not be south enough for you,
but the Bogue Chitto offers a long stretch of LA cruising and camping water.

Lake Maurepas area
Years ago, I met Bayou Haystacker Hulin Robert and he took me paddling in the Ruddick Canal into Lake Maurepas, SE of Baton Rouge. The Lake is a large body of water surrounded by cypress swamps and a number of creek-like water ways. Oops, I forgot, it’s Louisiana and they are bayous, not creeks. We paddled back into the bayous among the Spanish Moss and amidst the splash of gators slithering off the banks as we approached. It was pretty fascinating stuff for a paddler from Maryland. As we paddled out into the lake we heard the sound of an approaching thunderstorm, and Hulin decided we should cut the trip short. We returned to our cars, which were not broken into, and went to lunch in Ponchatoula at a place called Middendorfs. Middendorfs defies the maxim of “location, location, location” with “great food, great food, fried catfish to drive an hour for,” and was one of the highlights of my trip.

From Baton Rouge, a closer place to launch might be off Highway 22 on the Amite River, which connects to the Lake Maurepas. This is on the NW side of the lake, so would save you driving around to Ruddick. That suggestion is based solely on looking at a map, but I imagine it would be a nice paddle. Not sure exactly where you’d launch, but maps identify a number of places with “landing” in the name. If you go, I will be interested to know how it turns out, so please post something back.

A hint on avoiding break ins when you leave your car at the launch. First, put your valuables in a dry bag and take them with you. Second, leave your car unlocked, and if it is a nice day, leave the window partially open. Your car will not be broken into.


cautionary notes
First it’s gun season for deer in La. right now (Jan-Dec). I would not go into areas open to public deer hunting. Many who hunt in public areas will shoot at just about anything making noise whether they can sight it or not. The private areas are only a little bit better.

I avoid putting a paddled craft in at Hwy 22. on Amite river. It is a favorite for power boats. The norm here is an overpowered craft running wide open at all times. Seriously, it can dangerous, especially the area known as diversion canal, a long straight shot.

Ruddock, aka Shell Bank Bayou was obtained by the State recently and I do not know its status for hunting. BTW, Middendorfs is at South Pass between Lake Maurepas and Lake Ponchatrain, north of Shell Bank Bayou put-in.

I’d check with any state or national wildlife refuges on gun hunting status for those times. At best your presence will be unwelocmed by duck or deer hunters putting your person, but especially your vehicle at risk.


What pagayeur said
Local knowledge beats looking at a map (and ten year ago memories) most every time.


Pag did you mean Dec-Jan?
Or is gun season for deer year round?

Where was that where you took my hubby for a paired solo trip?

Dec. -Jan., although it seems more like Jan. to Dec. A canoeist should be wary here during those months.

Jim and I went to Spanish Lake. It has been drained recently so that deer hunters and real estate developers can utilized the land. This area had always been low-lying but about 70 years ago a levee was built which raised the water levels and made it a swamp. Back then deer hunting was not an issue as they had all been hunted out, so the swamp was treasured for duck hunting and fishing. This was a very historic area discovered by Iberville and Bienville in the late 1600’s. It is in the watershed of Bayou Manchac which was one of two distributaries (water flowed out of the river into the bayou) of the Miss. River. As a result, one could go by water from Baton Rouge at the Miss. R. to New Orleans via Bayou Manchac, Amite R., Lake Maurapas, South Pass, and Lake Pontchatrain. To prevent the British from using that route during the War of 1812 to attack N.O. from the vulnerable north side, Andew Jackson had Bayou Manchac filled at it’s confluence with the Miss. R. and it has been thus since.