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Looking for fun ways to beat the heat? Our Travel Girl, Stephanie Oswald, comes to the rescue!

All this week, at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. on News with a Twist, she’ll take us along on Cool Escapes that are less than a 2-hour drive from New Orleans.


WHERE: The kayak launch location is only a 40-minute drive from New Orleans. The exact meeting place is behind the Riverside Travel Center in Pearl River, LA.  Exact address: 65583 Pump Slough Road

COST: $65 per person

COMPANY: New Orleans Kayak Swamp Tours

PEAR RIVER, La. (WGNO) – Going to a swamp in August might not be the first idea that comes to mind for anyone trying to beat the heat of New Orleans, but it works! As our Travel Girl tells us, there is shade to be found under the cypress trees, and she didn’t encounter a single mosquito. Here are nine reasons to put down your car keys and pick up a paddle:

1. Haven’t you had enough cement and blacktop?

Kayaking in Honey Island Swamp.
Kayaking in Honey Island Swamp.

Sadly, there are places in the swamp where you can hear the sound of highway traffic competing with Mother Nature’s chorus of cicadas. But overall, this is an escape that will help you clear your mind from traffic jams, record-breaking temperatures, and even Facebook bickering over the presidential race.

You can meet your guide at the launch location in Pearl River, Louisiana — or pay $20 more for transportation from the French Quarter.

2. There’s a lot to learn in the swamp.

Katrina turned the river bank into a boat graveyard.
Katrina turned the river bank into a boat graveyard.

The first part of your two-hour tour is spent kayaking on Porters River, a secondary flow river fed by the West Pearl River.

I was surprised to see around a dozen abandoned boats embedded in the river banks. “Katrina,” said my guide.

These mud-filled vessels are now part of the landscape, poignant reminders of the power of nature, 11 years after the storm.

3. Find out how Pearl River got its name.

Jeffrey Cheetik from New Orleans Kayak Swamp Tours with News with a Twist's Travel Girl, Stephanie Oswald.
Jeffrey Cheetik from New Orleans Kayak Swamp Tours with News with a Twist’s Travel Girl, Stephanie Oswald.

This is Jeffrey Chitek, the Operations Manager and Head Guide at New Orleans Kayak Swamp Tours. He’s a passionate, paddling encyclopedia of environmental knowledge, local history and folklore — and he loves his job.

“It’s an opportunity to get a contrast of modern Louisiana and ‘prehistoric’ Louisiana,” he says with a smile.

A fun fact I learned on the journey: Pearl River is named after the Louisiana Pearl Shell, a critically endangered species of freshwater mussel native to Louisiana waterways. The inlay of the mussel shell is lined with mother of pearl.

4. Make a dendrologist proud.

Tupelo tree standing in the swamp.
A water tupelo standing in the swamp.

Dendrology is the study of trees and other woody plants such as shrubs and vines.

If you take this tour, you’ll be able to wow your friends with how quickly you can identify the trees of the swamp.

For example, you’ll be able to tell the difference between an old growth cypress tree and a water tupelo, like the one above.

5. Out-of-town guests need swamp time.

A rope swing on the bank of Porters River.
A rope swing on the bank of Porters River.

A swamp tour is quintessential New Orleans! This is one of the few U.S. cities where going to a swamp is high on the list of popular tourist attractions.

Treat out-of-towners to an authentic experience and a break from the heat. Aside from the shade of the swamp,  swimming opportunities along the way. If you watch our Travel Girl’s report, you’ll see Kayak Guide Jeffrey Chetik swing from this rope for a cool splash into the river.

6. Support this endangered landscape.

A scene from Honey Island Swamp.

Views like this one are part of the scenery revealed during a Honey Island Swamp Kayak Tour. Cypress trees can live to be over 3,000 years old and grow as wide as 17 feet in diameter.

You’ll want to have a camera with you — but be sure it’s in a waterproof case! If you don’t have your own, your guide can sell you one for $15.

7. Get your kids off the electronics.

Put down your car keys and pick up a paddle on this Cool Escape.
Put down your car keys and pick up a paddle on this Cool Escape.

Our Travel Girl lives by the motto, “Travel is the greatest educator.”

Before the school routine starts up again, get your kids off the electronics and into nature. On this summer field trip they might see a Ringed Map Turtle — it’s a species that’s only found in the Pearl River and its tributaries. Teach your kids what endemic means.

Plus, it’s great exercise too!

8. The Honey Island Swamp Monster only comes out at night.

It's a parade of cypress trees, but landscape like this is endangered.
It’s a parade of cypress trees, but landscape like this is endangered.

Local folklore says that years ago a circus train bound for New York crashed and several animals escaped.

According to the legend (and our kayak guide!), a surviving chimpanzee got together with an alligator and the result was the Honey Island Swamp monster!

P.S. If you want to see what the monster looks like, there’s a replica on display in the Audubon Zoo’s swamp exhibit that turned 16 years old earlier this year.

9. You don’t need any kayaking experience to do this!

WGNO's Travel Girl, Stephanie Oswald.
WGNO’s Travel Girl, Stephanie Oswald.

Our Travel Girl has some experience paddling down a river, but this tour is for beginners too!

“We’ve taken terrible kayakers from all over the world out in both of our locations!” laughs Jeffrey Chitek.

Bring a change of clothes if you think you might topple into the water — and remember sunscreen too!