Volume 29 - September 9, 2004
Old Rigolets Lighthouse

Lake Ponchartrain Estuary

The Wetland Wanderer parked in Mulatto Bayou on our way to the Pearl River.

The water sparkles like diamonds as we make our way through a maze of man-made canal systems from Houma to the Pearl River. We are excited to be heading to the south eastern border of Louisiana. The Wetland Wanderer has now traveled about 2,500 miles and has touched both sides of our state! We have seen amazing beauty and nasty dumps. Man has really toyed with nature building so many “navigable” waterways for travel, commerce, and industry, but as we move along the Intracoastal Waterway I am in awe of the beauty that exists in spite of man’s messes!


Crossing the Mississippi River in front of the French Quarter in New Orleans we journey east into a rich estuary. The Lake Ponchartrain Basin is a 630 square mile estuary system which receives fresh water from rain, rivers, bayous, and spillways and salt water from the Gulf of Mexico. Looking at a map, I remember the diversity of the Barataria-Terrebonne Estuary on the southwest side of the Mississippi as we now see the Lake Ponchartrain Estuary on the southeast side of the mighty river.


Salt water enters the Lake Ponchartrain Estuary via the Chef Menteur Pass and the Rigolets. CC and I traveled around both of these openings. Water pours through like a pitcher to a glass and the wetlands of this region are diverse. We traveled up the Pearl River and enjoyed the thick cypress tupelo swamp from our view on top of the Wanderer. Then into fresh marsh with its varied landscape. Next into intermediate and brackish marshes with tall grasses of green and khaki. We park most nights nosed into the tall marsh grass with an anchor in back to steady us as the water flows. The sunsets are a spectacle and the alligators checked us out on many occasions. Today we woke to the noise of wild pigs and their young rooting through the thick marsh grass. We never even saw them as the grass is a thick wall, tall enough to hide them. Driving up and down the Rigolets it is neat to have porpoise around the Wanderer……from pigs to porpoise!


Historically Lake Ponchartrain Estuary contained acres and acres of wetlands. Much of the swamps, hardwood bottomlands, and marshes surrounding the estuary are gone. Caring people created an effective voice for this region. It is called The Lake Ponchartrain Foundation. Check out all the education and projects on

Just Crabbin' Around!

Fishing net filled with Blue Crabs.

I was surprised when CC pulled up our anchor in Unknown Pass near Chef Mentuer Pass after a lovely nights rest. As the anchor came up I noticed some “aquatic vegetation” hanging on to the anchor and as it fell on the deck I started sniffing around! To my surprise there were all kinds of little wigglers on or near the underwater plants. CC said, “Look at the tiny crabs and shrimp.” Wow, he meant tiny! I am used to seeing big blue crabs scuttling around in the shallow marsh waters, but these guys were the size of a hungry tick! Complete with little teeny tiny pinchers and a shell they were cute. The shrimp looked like little larvae mosquitoes. We worked quickly and carefully to return all these critters to their water home where they will grow and become a major part of the food chain!




To thrive, crabs, shrimp, redfish, and speckled trout must move in and out of the marsh at different stages of their life cycle.


After these species spawn offshore, larval and juvenile fish and shellfish move through the passes into the estuary where they feed and grow.


The young tend to live in the shallow water along the marsh edge for food and protection.


As they mature, young fish and shellfish move into deeper more open water.



- The Rigolets and Chef Menteur Pass are the openings between Lake Ponchartrain and the Gulf of Mexico.
- A successful life cycle for many shellfish, crabs, and fish depends on the marshes and estuaries of south Louisiana.
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1. The coastal marsh around New Orleans is its greatest protection against hurricanes. Scientist say that every 2 to 3 miles of marsh will reduce a storm surge by 1 foot! New Orleans is a "city in a bowl" that is 15 feet below sea level in some places. Do some research on the city of New Orleans in the "crescent" of the mighty Mississippi and write a journal entry on the importance of this historic city.

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2. An extra or unexpected gift or benefit

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