From its majestic cypress and tupelo covered swamps to the egrets and alligators that fill its skies and endless waterways, the Atchafalaya Swamp has come to symbolize life in Louisiana. Pronounced “uh-CHA-fuh-LIE-uh,” the Atchafalaya gets its name from the Choctaw phrase for “Long River.” An unmatched American wilderness, the Atchafalaya Swamp encompasses 1.4 million acres—an area bigger than the state of Rhode Island—between Lafayette and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The Atchafalaya is as diverse as it is large. The northern Atchafalaya is comprised of bottomland hardwood forests with a multitude of plant and animal species, the central area of the Atchafalaya features Louisiana’s iconic cypress-tupelo swamps, and the southern area blends fresh water with the brackish and salt marshes of the Gulf of Mexico. The Atchafalaya’s size and diversity make it the most dynamic swamp environment in the United States.
This diversity includes large populations of wetland wildlife. The Atchafalaya supports half of America’s migratory fowl—more than 270 bird species, including wood storks, spoonbills, osprey, and the highest nesting concentration of bald eagles in the south central United States. Its waterways are home to nearly 100 species of fish and 65 species of reptiles and amphibians, including thousands of American alligators.
In truth, no mere description captures the experience of being in the Atchafalaya Swamp. You have to paddle its waters, spot its wildlife, and sleep amongst its ancient trees in order to truly understand its opportunities for adventure.