Wetland Field Trips with the Foundation

To schedule a wetland field trip, call the Coastal Research Laboratory at the University of New Orleans: (504) 280-6718.

The Wetland Field Trip Program focuses on the values of the wetlands of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin. Teachers choose either a land-based or a canoe trip to a wetland area close to their school. The trips enable the students to:

  • place the wetland area they visited in a larger context in relation to their own community and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin as a whole;

  • understand the functions and values of the wetlands of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin;

  • recognize the characteristics of the main wetland habitat types and common plants and animals of the local wetlands;

  • understand the effects on the wetlands of various human activities, including saltwater intrusion, erosion, and pollution, and

  • learn about and possibly participate in projects designed to restore damaged
    wetlands.

WHERE:

You can choose from the following wetland trips:

  • LaBranche Wetlands in St. Charles Parish
  • Wetlands of St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes
  • Cane Bayou, near Mandeville in St. Tammany Parish
  • Bedico Creek, near Madisonville in Tangipahoa Parish

WHAT:
You can choose a canoe trip or a land-based trip. On the canoe trips, the students learn simple canoe skills as they venture about one mile into the wetlands where they see and hear things they would not encounter on dry land. They sharpen their observation skills and learn about the issues affecting the wetland area. The students also collect and analyze water quality and biological samples. On the land-based trips there is more structured learning time. The focus is on guiding the students in collecting and analyzing meaningful science information, including water quality data and aquatic organisms. The students interpret what they find in the context of the wetland environment they visit. Field trip leaders also help the students see how they might participate in solving the problems faced by wetlands today

WHY:
The protection of our wetland resources depends on the conscious effort of forwardthinking leaders. The leaders and informed public of tomorrow are among the students of today. Few city dwellers have opportunities to explore the wetlands near their homes, and these trips provide that valuable experience. We want the students to understand the values of our wetland resources in the Basin so they will protect them now and in the future.

WETLAND FIELD TRIP SITES

LABRANCHE WETLANDS - ST. CHARLES PARISH

In the LaBranche Wetlands a canoe trip takes the students along Bayou LaBranche where they learn about the natural wetland habitats and the impact of human activities on the wetlands. The students make observations at several stops along the bayou, and eat lunch deep in the wetlands. Samples of wetland aquatic organisms are collected in dip nets, and water quality parameters such as salinity and dissolved oxygen are measured and put into the context of the whole wetlands system.

Alternatively, you may choose a land-based trip during which the students explore sites in the Bonnet Carré Spillway, learning about the role played by the Mississippi River and its relationship to the wetlands and Lake Pontchartrain.

WETLANDS OF ST. BERNARD AND PLAQUEMINES PARISHES

The theme of this field trip is how saltwater intrusion has altered the landscape and the methods used to push the salt water back in order to restore the wetlands. These field trips are usually land-based, but we also take canoe trips. The land-based trips begin at Shell Beach on the banks of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO). Here we make observations, study maps and aerial photographs of the area, measure the salinity of the water, and collect and study aquatic organisms. This portion illustrates some of the impacts on the landscape created by MRGO, which was constructed to provide a short cut for ships entering the port of New Orleans. Leaving Shell Beach, we travel to St. Bernard State Park where we eat lunch and then begin afternoon activities. We make comparisons between the water samples taken at Shell Beach with samples taken from the Caernarvon Canal, near the Caernarvon Freshwater Diversion Structure. The contrast between the two sites clearly illustrates the influence of salt water intruding from the Gulf of Mexico and fresh water from the Mississippi River. The students should take with them the idea that, despite the damage to the marshes of St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes during the 20th Century, it is possible to restore these valuable wetlands with correct management.

Beginning at the natural levee of the Mississippi River, our canoe trip takes the students into the fascinating and beautiful wetlands of Plaquemines Parish. During the trip the students observe natural ridges created by distributary channels of the Mississippi River where lush stands of live oaks and palmettos grow in contrast to the wide open marshes between the ridges. History is all around in the form of structures dating back to French Colonial agricultural practices as well as the Forty Arpent Canal.

CANE BAYOU - ST. TAMMANY PARISH

Cane Bayou is an ideal canoeing field trip site because it offers a rich variety of wetland habitats in a place convenient to most north shore schools. We launch at Highway 190 just outside Mandeville and travel down the bayou, stopping to observe the changes in habitat. The boat launch is in upland forest, but soon we reach an area of swamp at the position of the ancient shoreline. Here is a change in geology from the Pleistocene age to the very recent Holocene age sediments of the marsh. We can detour and meander through intermediate marshes if the water is high enough, observing osprey nests and many species of wildlife. Later we rejoin the main bayou, rounding a bend to see Lake Pontchartrain stretching before us. At the mouth of the bayou we can explore the beds of submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV), a rare but vital habitat that thrives on this section of the north shore.

BEDICO CREEK -TANGIPAHOA PARISH

Bedico Creek, a tributary of the lower Tangipahoa River, gives us access to beautiful cypress-tupelo swamp with an interesting history. The creek is much quieter than the nearby Tangipahoa River, making it a safer canoeing location. As we paddle Bedico Creek, we see giant old-growth cypress trees that survived the logging era of the early 20th Century. The scars left by the logging industry are seen throughout these wetlands, providing an interesting local history lesson. Using aerial photography, we point out that flooded fields are now open ponds lying between Bedico Creek and Madisonville. We also stop to collect samples of organisms and conduct water quality tests. This wild area teems with wildlife to be enjoyed by the observant paddler.