Down on the Bayou – Paddling in Louisiana

One of the greatest joys of the sport of paddle boarding is being able to explore areas that most of us will never see. 

SUP journeys in Louisiana are no exception.  Sure, the music and bar scene in New Orleans is a ton of fun but exploring the natural wonders of the state will leave you awestruck.

Come for the paddling, stay for the crawdads and creole.  Paddle boarding in Louisiana is a treat that you won’t be able to experience anywhere else. 

First off, what the heck is a bayou? It’s essentially a slow moving, somewhat marshy river and Louisiana is full of them as well as small scenic rivers, inland lakes and swamps coastal marshlands and canals.

The state is roughly 52,000 square miles and almost 15 percent of it is made up of water.  We’ve chosen the best of the best spots to take your SUP out on.

2 people on paddle boards
Photo Credit: Cypress SUP

Lake Bistineau State Park

The Park is located on the western short of Lake Bistineau and serves up gorgeous vistas and optimal recreational facilities.  There is an 11-mile water trail that offers incredible views of the hardwood forest which includes stands of cypress and tupelo trees.  

The lake’s origin dates back over 220 years when several thousands of acres were flooded thanks to an enormous log jam in the Red River. A permanent dam was built in 1935 which was later enlarged, giving the reservoir a surface area of 26.9 miles with a maximum depth of 25 feet and an average depth of 7 feet. 

The clear water in the lake makes it an ideal habitat for a plethora of aquatic creatures, and you will see loads of turtles, lizards, and waterfowl nearby. 

Bayou Bartholomew Paddling Trail

At 365 miles, this bayou is considered the longest in the country. It is also the longest undammed waterway on the Lower Mississippi River. Paddle board enthusiasts know that undammed rivers are typically the most scenic – not to mention, the wildest.

The bayou was created 2,000 years ago when Mother Nature decided to move the Arkansas River to the east and the bayou took over the old riverbed. “Da By” as locals refer to it, is normally a gently flowing stream which all levels of paddlers can handle.

Be wary of rain or high water, though, as they can produce dangerous Swiftwater conditions. The “By” has a mixture of cypress/hardwood stands and reaches its most beautiful articulation at the confluence of Chemin-a-Haut, a forest of giant Louisiana bald cypress which are beautiful to paddle through and explore.

Alligators, basking turtles, wintering waterfowl, and migratory songbirds among cypress and tupelo trees are all regular sights on “Da By”.

 

Whiskey Chitto Creek

Also known as Ouiska Chitto, this waterway is a great spot for SUP lovers of all levels. It’s a slow river that follows a meandering path for more than seventy miles and is considered one of Louisiana’s most scenic waterways.

The white quartz sandbars and sandy beaches add to the relaxing vibe of the river.  It also passes through several historic sites.  Plan on observing deer, turkeys, racoons and even cattle as you wind through mixed pine-hardwood forests.

It’s a great spot for fishing if you enjoy redeye bass and catfish.  Talk to our friends at Pack & Paddle for fishing tips or to rent your SUP. 

The Sabine River 

In a state that isn’t known for whitewater, we finally found some! In fact, the Sabine has the only whitewater in all of Louisiana.  The Moccasin Rapid and Roman’s Playground are a pair of class II rapids that are a bit more exciting than your typical lazy bayou. 

There are immaculate sandbars for camping and fishing along your route which is why the Sabine is considered one of the Top 10 camping streams in the US. Keep in mind, though, that the Sabine is a bit like a little Mississippi in that in can be subject to the elements.

Lake Fausse Pointe

The Atchafalaya Basin is the largest swamp in the U.S. It provides fresh water for a major portion of south Louisiana. In the middle of the basin is Fausse Pointe State Park, which is an excellent place to take in the unique splendor of the region's fertile wetlands.  

The shallow waters are akin to paddling through a flooded forest.  Many folks come here to walk the labyrinth of boardwalks that snake through the waterway but exploring the area on your SUP will get you much closer to the peculiar beauty of the area.  

People come from all over the world to photograph the old growth cypress trees that grow here. Some are as large as 20 feet in diameter and have survived countless hurricanes, lightning and logging back in the day. 

Lake Pontchartrain

No trip to New Orleans would be complete without a trip to Lake Pontchartrain which has over 400,000 acres to explore and is designated as one of the largest lakes in the United States. The lake also sports the Pontchartrain Causeway which – at twenty-four miles long – is the longest continuous bridge over water in the entire world. A popular launch point is Cane Bayou which is just east of the Causeway Bridge. 

The bayou stretches from the highway to the lake and is well protected from the wind that can whip up on Lake Pontchartrain. Of all the streams that enter (or leave) Lake Pontchartrain, Cane Bayou is the least impacted and is still in mostly its natural state.  

The SUPers will be treated to views of osprey nests, turtles, Gulf sturgeon, lilies as well as alligator holes.  The cypress trees that rise from both sides of the bayou as quite a sight to behold. Their visible roots are known to locals as “knees” that jut above the waterline and protect the shoreline. The paddle distance is a short two miles but because the bayou is adjacent to Fontainebleau State Park and Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge, there is much to explore there as well.

Conclusion

woman paddling a paddle board

Photo Credit: Cypress SUP

One of the greatest joys of the sport of paddle boarding is being able to explore areas that most of us will never see.  SUP journeys in Louisiana are no exception.  Sure, the music and bar scene in New Orleans is a ton of fun but exploring the natural wonders of the state will leave you awestruck.

 

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