JEANERETTE, La. (WVUE) - It may be the only place in Louisiana where you can see a lake surrounded by giant old growth cypress trees that date back more than a thousand years.
Harold Schoeffler has been launching his boat in the Jeanerette Canal and fishing and crabbing in Lake Fausse Point most of his 80 years.
“I fish almost everyday. The last eight days I fish seven,” says Schoeffler.
But today is not about fishing. Schoerffler is taking me to one of the most spectacular stands of cypress trees anywhere in Louisiana.
People always wondered if there was a place where we could still see what it might have looked like.
“This is it. This is what it looked like. And for some reason, the forest in this area wasn’t timbered.”
It’s not just one cluster of trees. It’s the entire shoreline around this lake. Some the giants have been measured and samples taken, that Shoeffler says date them at 1500 years old.
“I would say easily that there are trees here living that also live in when Christ walked Earth.”
How many hurricanes, how many ice storms, how many tornadoes you go down the list and that tree is still living. What an amazing thing.
We take a moment to turn off the boat’s engine. We hear only the sound of bird, the sounds nature.
“If theses tree could talk what stories they could tell.”
But if you listen closely, you hear what Schoeffler calls a clucking sound as the water gently laps at the roots of these old trees.
“That’s water moving in the cypress that makes that.”
I commented as we were coming into one of these groves of tree, it was, it was kind of like going into a cathedral. What do you get out of spending so much time out in this area?
“Just the beauty of nature, you know, we can build cathedrals, but we can’t build them like this.”
Something else was built here thousands of years ago. You seen Shell Middens, mounds that were created in the forest by native people.
“There’s no pottery to be found. So the assumption, this is pre, goes back 4000 years and more.”
For decades, Schoeffler has been involved in efforts to protect the Atchafalaya Basin from development, dredging, pipelines and oil production canals.
And I’ve traveled all over Louisiana and I just have not seen this kind of a collection of giant ancient cypress trees. And how on Earth did they survive?
“Because it’s a roadless area. It’s an area buried much hidden from public view. You can’t drive it. You can only see it by boat. This treasure of history, it’s a living history and if it’s destroyed it’ll never be replaced.”
It’s an area worth seeing. Schoeffler believes that the more people who experience this grand display of cypress giants, the more likely it will be preserved for the future.
Those giant old growth cypress trees are located around the shoreline of Lake Fausse Point, it’s on the western side of the Atchafalaya basin swamp near the town of Jeanerette.