South Louisiana’s close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico combined with our mild winters create a subtropical climate that is extremely conducive to specific wildlife and plants, and an airboat tour is the perfect way to get close to our beautiful wetlands. The Atchafalaya Basin is considered to be one of the most ecologically diverse places on Earth, and is the largest contiguous wetland swamp in the United States. Our one and a half hour airboat swamp tours are specifically mapped out to show you the most that the swamp has to offer.
Plants of the Atchafalaya Basin (Flora)
Only 30% of the Atchafalaya Basin is the open water you see while driving on the overpass down I-10. The rest of the approximately 850,000 acres of wetland is a forest composed of a variety of hardwood trees and plants, including the famous Bald Cypress. The Basin itself is the single largest tract of coastal cypress trees in the U.S., at 260,000 acres.
The surface of the swamp itself also has a plant ecosystem unlike any other. Over the years, it is thought that commercial barges have brought in some invasive species like the Giant Savinia that have led to the lush green “carpet” you see in certain areas of the swamp. Other plant life commonly spotted on airboat tours are Water Hyacinth, Brazilian Elodia, and alligator weed. Some of the older trees can be seen draped from crown to trunk with Spanish Moss.
Wildlife of the Atchafalaya Basin (Fauna)
Anyone who takes a tour of the Atchafalaya Basin will tell you that the real rock stars of the swamp are the birds, fish, reptiles and mammals that make up the diverse wildlife the region is known globally for. While catching a glimpse at an alligator is the highlight of many a tour, there are so many more animals you might spot if you bring along some binoculars on an airboat tour and look carefully!
The protected wetlands of the basin has given a home to endangered speaies which have allowed many of them to be removed from endangered lists over the years, including the American Alligator (1987) and the Louisiana Black Bear (2016).
Conversely, according to the Southeast Wildlife and Fisheries Division, the North American River Otter is the most common mammal in the region, and shockingly, not the nutria rat. The Atchafalaya Basin is home to several cute mammals like the Cottontail Rabbit, the White Tail Deer, Easter Gray and Fox Squirrels, possums, coyotes, muskrat, foxes and more!
The oddly colored Roseate Spoonbill gets it’s pink hued feathers from the keratin pigmentation in the shrimp they eat, just like a flamingo. Other common birds that can be seen during various times of year are owls, osprey, cranes, the Great Blue Heron, wild turkeys, egrets and more, making the Basin a recognized Internationally Important Bird Area. The wooded swamp is also boasts ideal conditions for the wood duck, and the swamp has the largest concentration of woodcock in the nation.
The Atchafalaya Swamp is internationally recognized as a fisherman’s paradise with nearly 100 different species of fish, including sac-a-lait (crappie), largemouth bass, channel catfish, bluegill and crawfish.
The American Alligator is native to the basin region, and can grow to over 12 feet when mature. According to National Geographic, the American Alligator is over 150 million years old, making it the oldest reptile in North America, and one of the oldest species still thriving on Earth. There are several Water Moccasins in the Basin, but locals call them “Cottonmouth Snakes” after the white color of the interior of their mouths, which they show when they are about to strike. Other reptiles include, bullfrogs, toads, tree frogs, skinks, anole lizards, newts, turtles, and several different species of non-venomous snakes.
Take An Airboat Tour Today
There is literally something for everyone on a swamp airboat tour. Our fleet of airboats will get you closer to the action than any other tours of the swamp. Even though we ask that you wear hearing protection for the longer parts of the boat ride, our tour guides make frequent stops where they turn off the engine so that you can hear the guide speak about the history, traditions, and wild animal and plant life that makes the Atchafalaya Basin so important to our planet. Mother Nature is, of course, always unpredictable. We cannot guarantee that you will see all of the things mentioned on this list, but we feel it is one of the most comprehensive ways to see the natural phenomenon of the Atchafalaya Basin. To book your airboat tour, call 337.228.7880 today.