The swamp tour area near Lafayette, Louisiana is Cypress Island/Lake Martin Swamp, a backwater flood plain cut off from the main Atchafalaya River Basin Swamp by a long, wide, low ridge of land named the Teche Ridge. This natural levee is named for the small river, Bayou Teche, that occupies the old Mississippi River bed today. The Teche Ridge was formed over three thousand years ago by the Mississippi River’s seasonal flooding and deposition of sediments from an area comprising thirty-two of todays continental United States.
This ridge of land, just east of Lafayette, is where many Acadia's came to start their new lives after cruelly being exiled from their New World homeland, Acadia, by the British in 1755. At that time Lafayette, was called “Vermilionville”
Once the Mississippi River changed course, around three thousand years ago, sediments that were gradually filling in the Cypress Island/Lake Martin Swamp largely disappeared, casting this swamp into a state of “suspended animation” awaiting the return of the Mississippi River and its dynamic land building forces.
Little had changed until the early 1900’s when a canal was dug through the swamp to connect the Bayou Teche to the Vermilion River just north of Lake Martin. This canal allowed water from the Atchafalya River to flow down the Bayou Teche through the Ruth Canal and into the Bayou Vermilion (Vermilion River). The increased volume of water is to help stop saltwater intrusion on the lower Vermilion River, which is actually an estuary, allowing more land in Vermilion Parish to be utilized for agriculture.
In 1950 the Lafayette Sportsman Club and Breaux Bridge Young Businessman Club set into motion the building of a five mile levee encircling Lake Martin and a portion of Cypress Island Swamp. This would maintain a constant water depth for the purpose of creating a public hunting and fishing preserve. The levee stopped the seasonal water fluctuations that are characteristic of backwater swamps, turning a large portion of this swampy wetland area into an impoundment.
As an added bonus the impoundment created an environment very attractive to alligators and wading birds. The wading birds now utilize the area for feeding, roosting and rookery purposes. This area also supports one of Louisiana largest populations of alligators of over 10 feet long.
Copyright Walter Guchereau
Adults $20.00/Child $10.00