Flora and Fauna in the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area
Alligators, bears and eagles, oh my!
Visitors come to Louisiana to experience the state’s unique culture and way of life. They are also fascinated by the unusual flora and fauna that thrive here. The Atchafalaya National Heritage Area (pronounced uh-CHA-fuh-LIE-uh) is close to several cities, including New Iberia, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Franklin and Morgan City, and is particularly rich in both is particularly rich in both wildlife and mystical swampy landscapes.
Spring is prime nature-viewing time in this outdoor haven. Alligators emerge from winter dormancy, colonial birds such as great blue herons, great egrets and roseate spoonbills (know as Cajun flamingos) fight for spots to lay their eggs, and even the elusive Louisiana black bear becomes, well, a little less elusive.
So bring your camera along to photograph some of these quirky animals in their picturesque natural habitats. Here are four of the best spots for seeing Louisiana flora and fauna:
- Located in St. Martin Parish, Cypress Island Preserve boasts both a bottomland hardwood forest and a classic cypress-tupelo swamp. The preserve’s Lake Martin supports a nationally significant waterbird rookery for nesting herons, ibis and more. Take a Spanish moss-filled swamp tour with Cajun Country Swamp Tours, go paddling with Bayou Teche Experience or follow one of the preserve walking trails to look for roseate spoonbills, alligators and nutria that thrive here.
- Iberia Parish is known as a nature photographer’s paradise thanks to the beautiful Jungle Gardens and Rip Van Winkle Gardens, both of which boast rookeries over water. For even more wildlife, look along the banks where gators like to nest.
- The best places to spot Louisiana’s mysterious black bears are the Richard K. Yancey Wildlife Management Area in Concordia Parish and the Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge in St. Mary Parish. Nearby Franklin even hosts the Bayou Teche Black Bear Festival each spring, complete with food, music and bear-themed exhibits and activities.
- St. Mary and Terrebonne parishes are home to a large concentration of the more than 356 active bald eagle nests in Louisiana. Every year, fans of this feathered national icon flock to this region’s Eagle Expo for live presentations and tours. If you take a swamp or wetland tour and keep your eyes peeled, you are likely to see one of these majestic creatures soaring through the skies.
*Note: To visit any of Louisiana’s Wildlife Management Areas, you must have one of the following: a valid Louisiana fishing license, a valid Louisiana hunting license or a Wild Louisiana Stamp, which you can buy online at WLF.Louisiana.gov.