Being tied to a pole in the salt marsh surrounded by water and the wind blown winter marsh grass is different! The two towers of the Leeville, Louisiana Bridge on Highway One rise above our “wet-prairie” view. At night the lights of oil rigs twinkle in the distance. The tide’s ebb and flow is as obvious as daylight and dark and I realize its importance to the salt marsh.
We arrived here a few days ago from the “easy life” on Grand Isle. Wonderful people, a cool beach to explore, and a nice grocery store seem far away from here. At the marina in Grand Isle we enjoyed shore power and water; here we must conserve the fresh water in our tanks and electricity from our generator. I am glad they invented fleece clothing! Natures Grocery Store has been open and we have caught redfish and snagged oysters off the muddy shoreline at low tide. I can certainly understand how the salt marsh has provided a living for many people through time. Native Americans, first, then early European settlers knew and enjoyed the bounty from this marshy maze.
Salt marshes occur where salinity is highest. The Gulf regularly floods salt marshes making grasses and an occasional small black mangrove patch the only vegetation that can survive. Many kinds of fish live in the salt marsh and birds abound. Redfish, speckled trout, blue crabs, and shrimp move in and out of the salt marsh at different times during their lifecycle in order to survive. Did you know that the delicious blue crab begins life in the Gulf as an egg, hatches into a zoea larva, grows to a megalops larva, and then swims to the salt marsh to become an immature blue crab! The little crab hides among the marsh grass growing until it is large enough to go back into the Gulf and start the cycle again laying eggs of its own! Lifecycles of creatures are so interesting and need such specific conditions!
The salt marsh needs to stay healthy just like you! It needs fresh water from the land to bring it nutrients and sediment. The tide pushes salt water into the marsh and when the tide goes out to sea, the salt water drains and fresh water from the land can move into the salt marsh on its way to the sea. The salt marsh food web includes plants, detritus (dead plants), and phytoplankton which store energy from the sun just like plants. Zooplankton also abound. These tiny creatures float in the water and some grow into larger creatures such as crabs. Oysters and baby fish use zooplankton as their main source of food. The many birds, raccoons, fish, shrimp, oysters, and crab that make the salt marsh their home eat well!
The salt marshlands are rich habitats. The day we moved the Wanderer into the salt marsh from Grand Isle we were lucky to have CC’s college buddy, Ray Cheramie, riding with us to help navigate. As we traveled through wide open expanses of sparkling water, I was saddened as Ray told story after story of growing up in these marshes. Land masses that “used to be here” were apart of almost every tale. Man’s activities and natures causes are to blame. Ray is an advocate for restoration projects. Realizing that if you took all the land that is lost to water in 45 minutes and put it all together, it would equal an area of land the size of a football field. If my Baton Rouge neighborhood was vanishing at that rate I think I would PANIC!