Paul Wagner sits high at the back of the aluminum flatboat, weaving among towering tupelo
gum and bald cypress trees while cruising the West Pearl River and a host of bayous that
slosh against it. This is southern Louisiana, about 10 miles east of Slidell. Dr. Wagner, a
biologist, is taking visitors on a tour of Honey Island Swamp, 250 square miles of “the
best-protected swamp in the United States,” he says. Wagner began offering the tours –
twice a day, year-round – more than 20 years ago.
Alligator encounters are, of course, the
main objective of the two-hour tours; seeing a dozen is not unusual. Numerous other animals
also ply these waters: mink, otter, beaver and beaverlike nutria with rope tails and
bright-orange teeth, as well as snakes and turtles. Graceful white egrets and ibises,
eagles, hawks and other birds inhabit the air. Rumored sightings of a tall, apelike
creature add to the swamp’s lore.
Reservations are required and transportation from New
Orleans can be arranged; call (985) 641-1769, or go to honeyislandswamp.com.