Louisiana Photographic Hotspots & Places to Visit
Grand Isle and Queen Bess Island
Nesting Pelicans on Queen Bess
Grand Isle is about seven miles long and one and 1/2 miles wide its widest point. It is a unique ecosystem that must be viewed to be fully understood. In the middle of the island are giant oak groves with 200 year old houses in their midsts. On the ends are large passes that are usually chok-full of shrimp vessels during shrimping season. Dolphins abound, as well as all types of birdlife. Queen Bess Island, or Bird Island as called by the locals, is a primary nesting spot for Brown Pelicans. This is a must see for naturalists. During the early 1960s, there was not one single brown pelican in the entire state as the result of DDT. Luckily, a few pelicans were reintroduced during the 1970s, and their population grew to pre-DDT numbers. Viewing Queen Bess Island will bring tears to your eyes. Because what you will see there was almost lost forever.
Year-around opportunities exist here for birders. The wintertime offers great shore and waterfowl birding. During the spring and fall, the island serves as a migrant trap. During a fallout (an event where tired migrating birds, stop at the first spot of land to rest), it is possible to see a hundred birds perching on one tree!!!! Queen Bess Island is wonderful during the summer.
Although Grand Isle is only 46 miles due south of New Orleans, it is a 2 1/2 hour trip via US 90 and Hwy one to its end. Can't miss it! Otherwise you swim. Nearby Barataria Pass is Due South
Gulf Islands National Seashore
Established in 1971, the Gulf Islands National Seashore is a mosaic of islands and coastline. This park system was created to protect the fragile and diverse habitats of the islands of the Mississippi and Florida coast. In the Mississippi District, which is almost 40 miles long, the park is made up of West/East Ship, Horn, Petit Bois Islands and Davis Bayou. Although, not directly part of Louisiana, these islands are a photographer's dream come true. With a unique and strangely diverse eco-system they are bursting at the seams with opportunity. (Web Master's Note: The Gulf Island National Seashore Park skips Alabama.)
Because of bugs, from Thanksgiving to St. Patrick's day is recommended. Although any time of year is great.
Along Mississippi and Florida Coastlines. See www.nps.gov for more information.
Jean Lafitte National Park and Preserve
Established in 1978, with a land mass of approximately 20,000 acres of hardwood forest, cypress swamp and freshwater marsh, the park is a must see for any photographer. Bursting at the gills with alligators and egrets, this park offers surprises for the visitor around every bend. Unlike any other park in the state, Lafitte combines all the habitats of the state into one microcosm. From the oak groves of western Louisiana to tall cypress stands like those seen in the Atchafalaya Basin, Lafitte has it. In addition to the several miles of boardwalks and bridges over the swamp, there are over twenty miles of waterways that can be explored by canoe. Be sure to stop by the visitor's center for the exhibits that highlight the area's natural history. The optimum view and photography time is during the spring when the Louisiana Irises are in full bloom. At that time, it seems as though the swamp erupts in color. For more information, call 504-589-2330.
Year-round. Mainly summer to view alligators.
Call number above for more information.
Atchafalaya Basin and Mississippi River Delta
Although not designated a refuge or park, this area outside Baton Rouge represents one of the greatest habitats you will ever encounter in the world. Consisting of millions of acres, the basin and delta are home to hundreds of hundreds of species of animals, and an absolute heaven to observe. You will never tire of this wonderland of Louisiana.
Sabine National Wildlife Refuge
Established in 1937 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, this refuge plays host to over twenty-eight species of mammals and 242 species of birds. Nutria, raccoons, and river otters are the most notable mammals, with the alligator being the most notable reptile. With a landmass of over 124,000 acres the refuge is the largest in the state. The bulk of the acreage is made up of brackish marsh, with the remainder being impeded fresh water marsh. Because of the existence of the two types of marsh, the Sabine Refuge provides a unique opportunity in wildlife observation. Over 280,000 people visit the refuge annually, and the best time for viewing the refuge is in late winter and early spring. During these times, the refuge is a hive of activity for all the migrating geese, ducks, and passerines. For easy viewing the Fish and Wildlife Service has constructed a mile and a half walkway. If you have a boat, be sure to visit the heron rookery. For more information, call 318-762-3816.
Established on December 29, 1988, with a landmass of 9,600 acres, Cameron Prairie is divided into two management units -- Gibbstown Unit & East Cover Unit. The Gibbstown Unit is made up of high tide fresh water marsh and contains many of the same species as Sabine with one important exception. Cameron Prairie is the southernmost territory of the panther/bobcat. There are several that reside on the refuge, but because of their very skittish habits they are difficult to see. The East Cove Units made up of saltwater/freshwater marsh. It is an important part of the local ecosystem because it provides important spawning and nesting habitat for countless species of fish and birds. For more information call 318-598-2216.
Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge
Established in 1937, with a landmass of almost 33,000 acres, Lacassine was specifically set up to provide "a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife." Freshwater marsh and water occupy almost half the refuge with the remaining part allocated to timberland, rice fields, and prairie. The prairie here is very significant. Part of this refuge's mission has been to restore some of the most important habitat to southwest Louisiana. Prairie contains a huge amount of biodiversity, and with its presence who knows what the long-term effects may be. During the winter the chief inhabitants on the preserve are wood ducks, fulvous and back-bellied whistling ducks, and northern harriers. Alligators, nutria, and deer can be seen at the refuge almost year-round. For more information call 318-774-5923.