Swamped With ‘Gaters

Swamped With 'GatersPaul 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.


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