Jean Lafitte National Historical Park

Here are the moss-draped oaks and cypress-tupelo swamp visitors to south Louisiana expect to see. The Barataria Preserve of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve is located fewer than 20 miles from the Central Business District (CBD) of New Orleans, and affords visitors the opportunity to walk through swamp and marsh.

The preserve was established in 1978, and has nearly nine miles of hiking trails. If you are in New Orleans with only a half day to bird, then Barataria, with its pleasant scenery and good birding, is the best place to go. Insect repellent is useful at almost any season.

The park can be reached by driving south on Barataria Boulevard (LA 45) from the town of Marrero. Continue south on LA 45 past the junction of LA 3134, past Ames Blvd. where the roadway narrows to two lanes, and then past several subdivisions. Soon a sign announces the park entrance. You can get trail maps and information and view interpretive exhibits at the Visitor Center, which is located on the right a few minutes drive further on. The Visitor Center Trail begins behind the Visitor Center and connects with the Palmetto Trail which leads you through a palmetto forest, ending in the Bayou Coquille Trail parking lot.

The Bayou Coquille Trail is often the best birding trail. The parking lot for this trail is about 0.7 miles north of the Visitor Center, on the west side of LA 45. The Coquille Trail starts in hardwood forest. From this point, the habitat changes to cypress-tupelo swamp and then becomes freshwater marsh at the end of the trail. Most of the trail is either pavement or boardwalk, and footing is excellent. Passerines can be seen in the trees and underbrush, wading birds are often present at the end of the trail, and hawks and vultures soar over the marsh. Barred Owls can be seen early in the morning. Deer flies and mosquitoes can be very thick in summer.

The Ring Levee Trail and the Wood Duck Trail are also good birding trails. They can be reached by continuing south on LA 45 a few hundred yards past the Visitor Center. Turn left into the parking lot, and continue driving until you reach the Pecan Grove area. From here, there are wooded trails that often offer good birding. But these dirt trails are not regularly maintained and can be overgrown or wet after a rain.

The longer Wood Duck Trail begins on the north side of the parking area on the left. It goes through an oak forest. Beware of deer flies during the summer. A similar trail goes to the south.

The Ring Levee Trail starts on the north side of the parking area on the right, and leads through a palmetto-grown transition area to a beautiful cypress-tupelo swamp. This is the most productive trail in the park in summer. Prothonotary and Hooded Warblers, Northern Parula, Pileated Woodpecker, and Acadian Flycatcher have been known to nest here. Armadillos along this trail are a visitor favorite, and nutria, turtles, snakes, and frogs are common. Cottonmouths (Water Moccasins) are unusual but have been seen, though Copperheads are often more common in this area of the preserve since it is a drier area.