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5 Fun Facts About the Louisiana Swamps

A swamp in New Orleans.

The swamp is a magical place filled with unique wildlife, history, culture and mystery. There’s nothing quite like an adventure through a flooded forest, with sunlight flickering down through the canopy above and helping the water to seemingly dance as you glide through on a boat or kayak. Waterways filled with alligators and cypress knees attract visitors from around the world and here are five of our favorite reasons why.

A gator on a tree stump.

Here are five of our favorite facts about the Louisiana swamps:

  1. Alligators: You can’t talk about a swamp without talking about alligators. The American Alligator is the largest reptile living in the United States. Adult males can grow up to 15 feet and weigh up to 1,000 pounds! Once endangered, they have now made a remarkable recovery. Did you know some alligators even use tools? In Louisiana and Florida gators have been observed using lures to hunt birds. They balance sticks or branches on their heads to attract birds looking for nesting material.
  2. Rougaruou, Legendary Cajun Swamp Monster: Cajun legends speak of a creature who prowls the swamps and sugarcane fields around Southern Louisiana. It is commonly described as a creature with a human body and the head of a wolf. A Rougarou is said to shape-shift between human and animal forms at will. The term Rougarou came from the word “Lou-Garou,” “Loup” being French for wolf and “Garou” derived from an old Frankish form “Wari-Wulf.” If you head into the swamps, beware.
  3. Vital Ecosystems: Swamps are critical ecosystems, they act as giant sponges and barriers. They help moderate flooding, absorbing excess water and they protect cities from storm surges. Swamps also help purify water, filtering some waste and chemicals from human activities and factories. Harmful substances not absorbed by plants are deposited slowly over time into sediment and sand.
  4. First Recall (Spanish Moss): Spanish Moss is the iconic, feathery looking plant that hangs off of Oak Trees and Cypress trees, etc in swamps and famous cities such as New Orleans, Charleston and Savannah. But what is interesting is that it isn’t Spanish (it’s American) and it isn’t a moss. It’s actually part of the pineapple family! Spanish Moss has been used historically for all kinds of commercial purposes, from bedding to car seats. In fact, the first major manufacturer’s recall in the U.S. was in the Model T automobile from Ford. In the early 1900s Ford used Spanish Moss in the seating and it was filled with mites.
  5. Spiders that Fish: The swamps of Louisiana are home to a unique spider, about 3 inches big, that likes to hang out on the base of cypress and tupelo trees. The Fishing Spider can trap air bubbles in its bristly body hair that it releases whenever it needs fresh oxygen, enabling it to stay underwater for up to thirty minutes at a time. They don’t bother with spinning webs as they can glide and submerge, catching minnows, insects and other small creatures found in the water. These spiders are large and mildly venomous, but don’t worry, they usually shy away from humans and bites are very rare.