We enjoyed a majestic hike through a nature preserve in Jean Lafitte National Historic Park near New Orleans, Louisiana. This is an incredible site to see at your own pace and is only minutes from down town. Entering the preserve, you'll find the first of 2 parking lots adjacent to the visitors center. The center has some great information about the history of the area as well as the formation of the swamp lands and the many species that call it home. The full hike out and back from the visitors center is about 4 miles.
You can drive to the second parking lot and cut about a mile off your hike each way, however we loved this section of boardwalk along the Palmetto Trail as it meandered through beautiful Cyprus trees and giant pools of swamp water.
This portion of the path introduced us to many dragonflies, small fish, a few tadpoles, one squirmy leach, a few birds, some green anoles, one cat who calls the swamps home, and the first of many snakes basking in the warm sun.
The highlight of the trail was to see what creatures we could find hiding in plain sight.
After reaching the second parking lot the trail makes a turn at Bayou Coquille, a small waterway. This is where we encountered our first of many alligators lying very still in the stream. The guy in the top photos of this panel was right under our feet and almost completely missed. Where the trail meets the Lower Kenta Canal and makes a turn we also saw a heron and were lucky enough to see it catch a fish.
There are many small stops along the path with information placards and benches for nice breaks along the way. The last half mile along the canal was home to many alligators. We also met a sleeping nutria and a couple turtles basking in the warm sun.
The trees were majestic and the weather was perfect in the middle of March. The highlight of the trip was a very rare sighting of a river otter playing just off the bank as we were making the return trek. This is a must see for any family that enjoys being out in nature and seeing wildlife.
A full trail map and additional information can be found on the National Park Service website. We have been impressed by the number of great family friendly things to see and do around the New Orleans area, and will only be able to visit a portion of them in our weeks here.