The day we moved the Wetland Wanderer from the dock at Lafitte to the barrier island Grand Isle, my eyes were opened to beautiful sights. Chugging along at about ten miles per hour on a crystal clear day, the wide open Louisiana marsh stole my heart! The Wanderer can go up to twenty-two miles per hour, but we travel slowly due to not only our extra boat mounted on the stern, but also to the quickly changing water depths. We need or “draw,” as sailors say, at least four feet of water to run smoothly.
On the Barataria waterway, the main navigable part is dredged for large vessels and marked with buoys. We traveled through brackish marshlands. Fishermen, crabbers, and hunters passed us in a variety of boats. CC commented on the large amount of open water around us. He remembered much more marshland in this area in the past. Our vanishing marshes, real places really gone forever, how awful!
All the way to Grand Isle we were followed by laughing gulls hoping to spot a fish stirred up by our propellers. Halfway down the waterway, to my delight, bottlenose dolphins began to appear. Brown pelicans with bright yellow heads, their breeding plumage, were ever-present on our trip.
As we approached the marina at Pirate’s Cove (an old Jean Lafitte hang out!) on Grand Isle we were lucky to find our friends the Hebert family from Plaquemine. The Heberts helped us park the Wetland Wanderer in windy conditions. We are so grateful for the help we receive from so many wonderful friends, old and new.
Grand Isle was full of surprises. A very special surprise was meeting Governor Mike Foster and his lovely wife Alice! We enjoyed an evening visiting with them and some of their best friends at their Grand Isle camp. The two term Governor has spent over forty-seven years hunting, fishing, scuba-diving, and flying over south Louisiana. He has an appreciation for the abundance of life and great recreational activities that this area offers. Over dinner, the Governor and his buddy Sid told us story after story of adventures on and off the shores of south Louisiana.
Governor Foster feels that this is a critical time in Louisiana’s history. He believes that Louisiana citizens and government representatives must act quickly to preserve, rebuild, and protect the delicate habitats that we all take for granted. Our hats are off to Governor Mike Foster who has is an enthusiastic Louisiana outdoorsmen, sportsmen, and advocate of wetlands preservation!
Grand Isle is one of the larger inhabited barrier islands on Louisiana’s coast. The southern edge of Barataria-Terrebonne Estuary is bounded by a chain of barrier islands, including Grand Terre (just east of Grand Isle) and Timbalier, Dernieres,and Raccoon Point (to its west). The diverse habitats are home to a large variety of wildlife, each with special needs.
The sandy beaches on the Gulf, the low sand dunes, shallow near-shore waters, and back barrier marshes provide resting, nesting, and foraging areas for seabirds, shorebirds, and migrating songbirds. These islands also help protect coastal bays and marshes from waves and storm surges. Baby fish, shrimp, and crabs seek refuge in the shallows behind the barrier island. Large fish and dolphins love the deep tidal passes between the islands.
High, well drained sand ridges on Grand Isle have maritime forest with live oak trees and thickets. These woodlands are important to millions of songbirds that use them as their first rest stop after a long journey across the Gulf of Mexico. These birds spend our winters in Central and South America, and it is a l-o-n-g flight home.
Unfortunately, every year the barrier islands decrease in size and many islands are projected to be gone in a few years if restoration projects do not work. What will become of the gulls, terns, plovers, pelicans, skimmers, songbirds, marsh rabbits, and other creatures if we turn our backs to the problem?