There are many recreational boaters on Lake Pontchartrain. Sailboats, yachts and mid-sized boats run up and down the shore or head east to the Gulf, but man-powered kayaks and canoes are also a popular way to traverse the vast shoreline. Kayakers can paddle straight up to the shore to spot the various wildlife in and out of the water, go fishing or compete in races.
One launch point on Bayou Cane—or “Cane Bayou” to locals—sits on the northshore of Lake Pontchartrain east of the Causeway Bridge. The bayou lazily meanders from the highway to the lake, past osprey nests and alligator holes. This is a preferred area to launch your vessel and head out for a day on the water. If you find it difficult accessing this sliver of nature don’t worry, Fontainebleau State Park is close by with plenty of space to carry out a canoe or kayak and take to the seas, or actually the lake in this case!
Immediately noticeable on the trip from land to lake are all the trees rising above the low brush. Louisiana is known for picturesque scenery, thanks to the plentiful cypress trees. Their visible roots are known as knees and jut above the water line showcasing the root system of this incredible flora. They protect the shoreline and create fantastic imagery for pictures.
Out here you can see and hear swallows, alligators, an invasive avian species called cat bird (due to its high-pitched call), turtles, Gulf sturgeon and lilies—the actual list continues far past my knowledge. Native Americans used to eat the mussels found in the lake. FUN FACT: Mussels were also known to filter the entire body of water in only 2 1/2 days.
Native Americans also created middens—raised areas made of discarded shells, rocks and other natural substances along the shoreline used as trading posts. Some were small enough to only accommodate a couple of canoes while others encompassed vast areas for major trading times. Look for piles of whitewashed stones and shells piled up near the base of large trees—as if they are part of a kids’ quarry. It was here that the area around New Orleans gained its first foray into being an area of trade and cultural infusion.
At times, the wind and waves on the lake can be quite cruel. The best days to kayak are those when the wind is coming off the land and make sure to plan on paddling out and back in. As always wear sun protection and bring lots of water, even if it’s overcast.