Saturday, November 24, 2012

Treasures of the Contraband

Local legend claims that the pirate Jean Lafitte buried treasure somewhere along Contraband Bayou. The house where I grew up is located near its banks and I spent countless hours roaming its shores and canoeing its waters. While the bayou never revealed any gold or jewels to my inquisitive eyes, it features prominently in a treasure trove of childhood memories.

During this year's Thanksgiving holiday I was able to paddle it again for the first time in many years. Thanks to the passage of a cold front the night before, the air was chilly and the water level was low. But the breeze was light and the sun was warm, so we decided it was time to rediscover the bayou.

The friendly folks at the Bowtie Marina were generous enough to let us use their boat ramp to launch our kayaks. Just as we exited the marina, I spotted an osprey perched in a tree nearby. It took flight before we could get very close, but it set the tone for the afternoon's wildlife spotting. It was a day for the birds.

We headed upstream, passing under the Prien Lake Road and I-210 bridges. Despite the fact that we were going upstream, we found that the current was going in the same direction. Unless there's been a recent rainfall, any current in this bayou is a function of wind and tide.

Along way way we saw ospreys, herons, egrets, cormorants, kingfishers, and more. And of course we saw our fair share of wooded shores and lovely homes as well. We also ran across more than our fair share of dogs who seemed to feel that kayaks were almost as much fun to bark at as squirrels.

We finally turned around near Sale Street as the afternoon was starting to wane. We headed back downstream (against the current) and arrived at the marina just in time to reload the boats before their closing time.

While some things have changed along the old bayou, much of it looked and felt comfortably familiar -- and that's a good thing. It's heartening to know that the setting of so many treasured memories is still around, and not only in my mind.

More Pictures from Contraband Bayou