For as long as I’ve lived here in south Mississippi, I’ve wanted to take a swamp tour, and that has been a very long time. I made my first trip to South Mississippi in the summer of 2001, and I’ve waited all this time to actually take a tour. With the Honey Island Swamp just half an hour to 45 minutes away, I’m not sure why we’ve not actually gone. I’ve been searching Groupon and Living Social for deals on tours (which is how we manage to afford to take all of our fabulous tours in New Orleans….there are a ton of them being offered right now, and it would be a great time to take advantage of such because New Orleans is getting bearable again with cooler fall weather). When the Mississippi Gulf Coast Photography Club organized a group photo shoot to Honey Island Swamp, I knew I had to go – even if the date just so happened to be on Sweet Husband’s birthday.
The Swamp did not disappoint, even if I struggled to get the settings right on my camera. Eventually I gave up trying to shoot in manual and went back to what I am most comfortable with – shooting in Aperture Priority. Occasionally I put the camera on “P” and let it handle almost everything, but mainly I focused on adjusting the depth of field. Too much light and shadows and movement in the swamp, and I didn’t want to spend the two hours frustrated.
Our tour group was organized by Dr. Wagner’s Original Honey Island Swamp Tour. Each boat held 20 people, and our club had enough people for almost two and a half boats. I was fortunate to get myself into a front seat for an almost bird’s eye view of all the action.
This tour was much different than my first time in the swamp – the time that I fell in love with the beauty and peace of the swamp. If you’ve never been to a swamp – it’s easy to believe that they’re scary, frightening places – and I suppose that they are in the night. The first time I made my way to the swamp, it was in the spring of 2005. I was on a spring break trip through South Carolina, and I made my way to Congaree National Park. One of the activities that I took advantage of was renting a canoe and heading out into the swamp. Yes me – heading out into the swamp. In a canoe. By myself. It was peaceful and quiet and amazing. I probably should have been scared, but I wasn’t.
This tour wasn’t powered by my own effort, and I wasn’t alone. There were approximately 20 other people in the boat, and all of us were keen to not miss a thing – particularly the alligator when he came swimming up to the side of the boat like it was nothing, nothing at all, like he expected us. And he did.
He sure did appreciate the hotdogs that our guide was feeding him…and that is why he swam right up like he was waiting for us. Personally, I think that’s probably one of the very best uses of hotdogs period. (I’m not a hotdog fan – unless I’m at the ballpark)
We didn’t see a tremendous amount of wildlife in the swamp this trip – according to our guide, there were too many people on the water and that spooks the critters. I suppose that means I’ll just have to make a return trip, perhaps this time with Sweet Husband. And maybe when we go back, I’ll get better, more in-focus pictures.
The real beauty of the swamp isn’t the wild life, though. It is the swamp herself. The combination of the greens and yellows – the browns and blacks – occasionally a blue thrown in for good measure. The light and the dark filtering through creates drama, highlighting things you wouldn’t normally notice or think was gorgeous. As you can see from the water line in these photos, the water level in the swamp is very low right now.
There are different “kinds” of swamp – for lack of a better term. We started off in the cypress swamp – old growth cypress trees, surrounded by their knees. Some of them young – others much, much older. Our guide said some of the very wide cypress tress might be 400-500 years old. We left that section of the swamp and her alligator rather quickly, though, and made our way down the Pearl River to a small slough, which our guide informed us was actually the original Pearl River. With the changes to coastal Louisiana due to the demands of shipping out of New orleans as well as the erosion of the wetlands and the barrier islands, the Pearl has changed. She’s a much wider river now, and the old girl is barely wide enough to fit the boat.
I’ve got so many more images I could share with you – so much more beauty to be found in the swamp – but those will be saved for another day. If you get the chance – take yourself off to the swamp! You won’t regret it! And…as our guide told us, as long as you’re out during the day, you won’t need bug spray; all of the critters and the dragonflies and the birds take care of those for you. Waiting on the dock to leave is another story all together, as I managed to collected 5 bites in quick succession. Worth it, though. Totally worth it.