Way up in the hills past St. Francisville, there is a magical enchanted land where the Mississippi River has no levees. Every spring since the ice age, the waters flood these swampy highlands and feed the ancient cypress trees that grow here.
Some of the trees here are between 500 and 1000+ years old. Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge is along the southern-most unleveed portion of the lower Mississippi River. Check out the giant cypress knees on these trees – some are over our heads.
Some wildlife found in the area include white-tailed deer, bobcat, mink, river otter, wild turkey, woodpecker, and a shitload of other winged species if you have a weird fetish for birds. The animals that I saw with my own eyes were as follows:
A SNAKE that I picked up. I have no training in reptile handling, but I have watched many dumbasses on TV pick up snakes and they did it like this. Grab the tail quickly and keep the head away from your nuts. I highly suggest doing this.
A RIVER OTTER which was extremely pissed at my presence and really didn’t want me to photograph him(hence the shitty photo).
Tons of DEER TRACKS.
On the way back to New Orleans, we saw this CHIPMUNK in the Port Hudson Civil War park($2 super hilly park north of Baton Rouge). You may not think Chipmunks are that exotic in the south, but take a moment and think. You have never seen them(those things outside your window are called “squirrels”). Chipmunks are more alpine creatures than squirrels and are way rarer in this part of the country. Like the otter, this chipmunk did not want to have his fucking picture taken(shitty autofocus chose the leaves instead of the animal).
Here’s a clear photo I pilfered from the internet to show you the subtle difference between a chipmunk and a squirrel. Notice the stripes?
Now that we got that out of the way, Cat Island is not really and island; it’s a peninsula into the Mississippi River, and it is home to the National Champion bald cypress tree, which is also the largest tree of any species east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. This tree is 83 feet tall, over 50 feet around, and estimated to be 800 years old. Unfortunately, during my visit, I didn’t actually see this tree, because the directions and marking of trails in the refuge are so screwy. The photos here are of trees on the Blackfork Trail. Pass this one up and go straight for the Big Cypress Trail. You may still need shrimp boots because it gets muddy.
So these trees, though not the national champion, were still mighty huge. although I do have a cypress in my backyard that I claim is the largest cypress in New Orleans(I have no facts to prove it, but it is gigantic and I climb it all the time.)
Every time I got inside of a tree, I kept expecting a hibernating Louisiana black bear cub to attack the fuck out of me. Fortunately, they were probably all dumpster-diving down at the Waffle House.
Another thing to be aware of is that you cannot access these trails all year. The river floods with no levees, remember? Winter time is pretty safe, or you can wait for the river to drop below 21 feet in late spring(try summer). Since I never saw the REAL CHAMPION, I guess, I’ll have to go back. Maybe, I’ll visit when I attend the nearby Angola Prison Rodeo(don’t bring anything sharp – you could get shanked).
Oh, I forgot. There were these little yellow flowers everywhere – probably young dandelions or something.
For more info check here.