“From the mountains to the prairies
To the oceans white with foam…”
We all know this common lyric from “God Bless America,” but what the song forgets to mention is the bayou. Though America’s Rocky Mountains and Midwestern prairie are majestic, there’s a certain romance, charm, and haunting beauty to bayou country.
A bayou is a body of water, commonly found in the southeast United States. Bayous may look like standing water, but they’re usually slow-moving rivers or streams composed of brackish water (a mix of saltwater and freshwater). These marshlands are home to shrimp and crawfish, but also alligators, crocodiles, snakes, turtles, and hundreds of species of birds.
This southern swamp country has a diverse immigration history with influences from Native American, French, Canadian, European, and African ancestry. Today, these cultures live on in Cajun and Creole culture, and the lively characteristics of this heritage are what bring visitors to Louisiana year after year. There’s nothing quite like the smell of a spicy crawfish boil sprawled over a picnic table. Or, the sound of Zydeco music drifting down cobblestoned streets.
Bayou country is full of sites, sounds, and flavors. To truly experience it, you’ll need several days to sink into the culture and scenery. The best way to get comfortable? In an RV. Park it under the shade of a live oak draped in Spanish moss and set out to explore the best of Bayou country.
Weather in Bayou Country
Bayou Country is, by definition, a low terrain. With little elevation, the bayou is almost always humid. The humidity will be particularly intense in the hot summer months. The most comfortable time to visit would be in a shoulder season, or winter, as many snowbirds will tell you. Exploring the bayou is best done with the comfort of air conditioning, so reserve a site with full hookups, or be sure you’re traveling with everything you need to run your generator. Other ways to beat the heat include lounging in the campground pool and spending the day in the gulf coast surf. Ready for a fun trip? Let’s explore bayou country.
Highlights of Bayou Country
To be extra specific, Cajun Country is specific to the southernmost part of Louisiana — a region called Acadiana. French and English are often spoken interchangeably here. Though New Orleans gets a lot of attention, there’s plenty to see and do beyond “The Big Easy.”
Lafayette is considered the heart of Cajun and Creole Country. The city is proud of its rich cuisine and happy residents who say, “ Laissez les bons temps rouler,” (let the good times roll). Base yourself out of Lafayette and you’ll have plenty to do.
Get outdoors in Lafayette. The Cypress Island Nature Preserve at Lake Martin is a diverse ecosystem rich with native flora and nesting birds. Egrets, herons, ibis, and spoonbills call the bayou home. Take the Lake Martin Loop Trail for an easy boardwalk hike through the swamp. Launch your canoe or kayak for a paddle down Lafayette Parish paddle trail. To spot the most wildlife, book an airboat tour through the bayou with a guide.
For history buffs curious about the unique culture of bayou country, a visit to Vermilionville and the adjacent Acadian Cultural Center should be on the itinerary. Vermilionville makes learning interactive with more than 20 acres of living historic folk park to explore. Costumed craftworkers, live music, cooking demos, and dance lessons are activities the family will enjoy while learning about the Native American, Cajun, and Acadian beginnings of the region.
Fans of TABASCO sauce deserve to make a mecca to the birthplace of the dinner table staple itself at the Tabasco factory on Avery Island. The Louisiana island rises above the surrounding coastal marshes. Its 2,200 acres are covered with mossy live oak and, of course, fields of hot peppers. You can also visit the romantic botanical garden—Jungle Gardens, blooming with azalea, iris, and wisteria.
Grand Isle State Park
Head out to the beach. As you make your way to this beach ridge, you’ll drive through the bayou tributaries of the Mississippi River that spill into the Gulf of Mexico. RVers can camp steps from the warm waters of the Gulf at Grand Isle campground. Birding and saltwater fishing are a few pastimes to enjoy on the sleepy isle. Enjoy a hike on the park trail and end the day out on the long boardwalk watching the sun sink into the waves.
What do you want to see in bayou country? Tell us in the comments below.