Heart of Louisiana: Swamp Base

Heart of Louisiana: Swamp Base

HENDERSON, La. (WVUE) A Louisiana swamp has become an adventure destination for teenage scouts from across the country to take a deep into the Atchafalaya Basin for a week of paddling, camping and discovery at Swamp Base.

For one group of California scouts, their High Adventure Trip marked the first time they’d ever been in a swamp. While there, they immersed themselves in Louisiana nature, making their way through the 19-mile route through cypress trees, bayous and lakes.

Ben Pierce is the executive director of Swamp Base and said the unfamiliar surroundings make for a transformative experience for the scouts.

“You’re going long distance, you’re being put into environments that you don’t know much about, and in situations that might be a little bit more uneasy for you,” Pierce said. “The idea being that you grow as a team, as a person, and you start to grow in appreciation for that environment that you’re recreating in.”

Pierce said he hopes to bust a few swamp-myths along the way.

“People have these stereotypes that are generally negative about this environment. And people talk to us, always, about alligators, mosquitos, snakes and the heat,” Pierce said. “We get a chance to talk to them about what is really out here.”

On the second day of their trip, one troop from out of state went on an airboat tour, a high-speed thrill ride for Chris Perry and the other members of Chicago’s Troop 626.

“I think the swamp is pretty cool,” Perry said. “I’d like to come back here. The scenery is really nice. I like how the water is always reflecting and stuff. That’s really cool. I got some nice pictures of the sunset last night.”

Matthew Domkowski is also in the Chicago troop and said while he had not encountered all the wildlife Pierce mentioned, there was still plenty to look at.

“I haven’t seen any snakes yet,” Domkowski said. “But alligators, there’s been quite a bit.”

Plus, Perry said the wildlife they did see was welcome.

“The bugs and stuff seem to be pretty friendly. We had a couple of frogs that jumped into our boat and they were just chilling there for a couple of miles,” Perry said.

Since they began hosting the High Adventure Trips seven summers ago, Pierce said Swamp Base has introduced thousands of scouts to the Atchafalaya. And, the vast majority of those kids come from areas outside of Louisiana.

“The program now has scouts from 40 states that have arrived to Swamp Base. I think residents of Louisiana don’t understand the beauty that we have in our own backyard. And so, people from all over the country, they are fascinated by our culture and environment here,” Pierce said.

The first night is spent on air-conditioned house boats, but then, it’s more paddling and more primitive accommodations.

“We actually make them a little more immersed in their environment, so they sleep in jungle hammocks on a primitive island, filtering their water right out of the swamp,” Pierce said.

In the high-tech world of today’s teens, Swamp Base is a dramatic change of pace. It’s a place where texting and social media are replaced by the quiet beauty of cypress trees reflecting in the still waters of the Atchafalaya Swamp.

Swamp Base was created for scouts and only offers services to troop groups and you can visit their website for more information: .bsaswampbase.org. However, there are other tours providers in the same area that will take families and groups on tours of the Atchafalaya Swamp. More information is available here: atchafalaya.org/wetland-tours

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