Port Fourchon and Fourchon Beach
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Few highways penetrate the marshes, estuaries, and Cheniers (old beach ridges covered with live oaks) of the Mississippi River delta of southeastern Louisiana. The only highway to the beach is LA 1, which can be reached by US 90 from New Orleans.
Take I-10 west to I-310, just beyond the airport, and take it all the way to US 90, exiting to the right toward Raceland. Continue west through Paradis and des Allemandes to Bayou Lafourche. Just before the high bridge over this waterway take the exit to LA 308, and turn left (southeast) toward Golden Meadow. If you accidentally cross the bayou, you can take LA 1 all the way to Grand Isle. Just before Golden Meadow on LA 308, watch for a Burger King on the left, and a bridge over the bayou with a high superstructure. Turn right over the bridge, and continue across LA 1 to a bypass about one mile to the west with a Wal-Mart off to the right. Turn left onto the four-lane divided bypass, being extremely careful to observe the 45 mph speed limit in Golden Meadow. Continue south through the lower end of Golden Meadow and merge with LA 1 which leads to Grand Isle.
A little over 10 miles beyond Golden Meadow, LA 1 turns sharply onto a raised roadway. This is a TOLL BRIDGE. At the end of the bridge is an intersection with LA 1 and LA 3090. Turn left and you head towards Elmer’s Island and Grand Isle, continue straight and you are on 3090 (A.O. Rappellet Rd., traditionally known as “Fourchon Road”). You can reach this spot in about 2 hours from New Orleans. Just past the entrance onto Fourchon Road, try squeaking up Seaside Sparrows and Marsh Wrens on the left side of the road. Wintering Peregrine Falcons frequently perch on the nearby transmission tower or further down the road on the water tower. The road to the beach is flanked by small ponds and marshes to the east.
About a quarter mile from the beginning of Fourchon Rd., there is a large lagoon to the west (right) of the road, where herons, waterfowl, gulls and terns, and shorebirds often abound. There may be up to 1,000 American White Pelicans, a few Roseate Spoonbills, and usually a Reddish Egret or two. A good vantage point is on the shell road which goes west along the north side of the lagoon.
LA 3090 continues to the Gulf, but Theriot Road, to the right, provides additional access to the southern end of the lagoon, to some short grass habitat, and to another radio/microwave tower which might have a Peregrine on it. Be careful to park your car all the way off the pavement here. This area is rapidly being developed by the oil and gas support industry. Proceeding south on Fourchon Rd. to the gulf beach, you can stop and scan for Gannets (especially February to April) or Brown Pelicans, Sandwich and Forster’s Terns can be found from May through August. A number of vagrant gulls have been found here, including Thayer’s, Lesser Black-backed, Great Black-backed, and Glaucous Gulls. Semipalmated, Snowy, and Piping Plovers, Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings, and Red Knots are often present during migration. Wilson’s Plovers breed along the beach, as do Black Shimmers and Least Terns.
Other birds that can be found in the marshes, shrubs, and fields along Fourchon Road are Clapper Rails (common), Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and Western Kingbirds (the last two primarily in fall) , as well as Savannah, Nelson’s, Seaside, and Swamp Sparrows. Yellow-headed Blackbirds are occasionally found with flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds. Groove-billed Anis are found sporadically, particularly during the fall, in stands of Phragmites, locally called Roseau Cane.
Birding along Fourchon Road is good to excellent throughout the year, but the summer months are hot, and insects may be annoying spring through fall.
Continue on LA 1 towards Grand Isle and watch for the sign on the right of the road as you enter the town of Grand Isle that says Elmer’s Island. Turn right and pish the marsh for wintering Nelson’s Sparrows and year-round Seaside Sparrows and rails. Further down the road there is a pond in which can be found Reddish Egrets, Mottled Ducks, herons and egrets. In winter, numerous duck species can be found. Drive to the Gulf where you can drive the sand to the east scanning the Gulf for gulls, terns and pelicans and the shoreline for Sanderlings, Ruddy Turnstones and plovers. Be careful of the sand conditions and drive only in the hard packed sand. Elmer’s Island is a tremendous spot for birding and has become better than Fourchon Rd.
LA 1 continues to Grand Isle, one of Louisiana’s top birding areas.