BATON ROUGE, La. (WVUE) - You would never know as you drive through heavy traffic on Bluebonnet Boulevard in the state’s capital city that you are only a block away from nature -- a preserved section of Louisiana swamp, complete with most of the wild animals, insects and native plants you expect to find miles away from the city.
Claire Coco manages the 100-acre Bluebonnet Swamp for the Baton Rouge Recreation Program.
“It’s got trails, up to two miles of walking trails. If you walk all of the different route and paths that we have on sire, it is an upland hardwood forest that leads down to a cypress tupelo swamp,” Coco said.
According to Coco, the swamp is a popular spot for birdwatchers, or kids hoping to see a turtle or snake.
“They will see squirrels and birds. Sometimes people have seen armadillos, possums, swamp cotton tails,” Coco said.
It’s a truly unexpected natural gem, that’s tucked away in the urban sprawl of Baton Rouge, begging the question – how did this place happen?
“As the city was developing over the course of time, when it was kind of sprawling, the Louisiana Nature Conservancy identified this [area] as a very unique [ecosystem],” Coco explained. “They sought to, basically, purchase the swamp itself. They were able to secure 65 acres of the swamp.”
And the Nature Conservancy turned the swampland over to BREC, which opened this nature park in 1997.
“When you run through, you miss it all,” Coco said. “The best thing to do is to plan time to take a leisurely stroll, get to any point along the trail, and just stop.”
There are towering cypress and tupelo trees, but it’s only when you stop and really look, that nature comes alive all around you.
Inside the visitors center, those hoping to see snakes – including a few venomous Louisiana reptiles – won’t be disappointed.
“We want to be able to show people close up how to identify the snakes, how to distinguish them from the non-venomous,” Coco said.
But the real joy comes from finding interesting bits of nature along the trail, and even just spending some quiet time under the trees.
“We just want people to get out and have a positive encounter, not to be intimidated,” Coco said.
It’s real nature that’s been spared from development, a hidden opportunity to take a break from our busy lives.
The Bluebonnet Swamp is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, as well as on Sunday afternoons. For more information, click here to visit their website.