& Honey Island Swamp Tour
Crawford Landing Campground is easy to get to and has huge beautiful oak trees for plenty of summertime shade. Since we were here the last week in December, we opted to park in the full sun and it was perfect! Our camper warmed up in the daytime, but we had a great cross breeze. We wandered around by the boat launch looking for wildlife, chatting with the swamp tour operators and with locals. The campground is a popular staging place for deer and wild pig hunters, we got to talk with a couple guys around the campfires at night. Noelle here, by the way.
The boat landing on the Pearl River is for smaller flat-botomed boats and kayaks/canoes. This is swamp and bayou area, not lake boating. The Pearl River is about 444 miles long and the lower part (where we are) forms part of the boundary between Louisiana and Mississippi.
Honey Island is a protected wildlife area within the Pearl River. The swamp tour around it and near it is a great way to spend a couple hours. Since it is December, the alligators are chilling and we didn’t see them, but there is so much more to see. From the beautiful homes bordering the river bank to the fishing/hunting cabins on the water to the wild boar, we were not dissappointed. Honey Island earned it’s name because of honeybees that used to live there.
Swamp tour…how often do I get to say that?!
So it’s actually a total coincidence that we ended up at the very location of Dr. Wagner’s Honey Island Swamp Tours, but I’m not entirely sure Steve believes that. Ha! We’d been talking about some things we may like to do after visiting my sister for Christmas. I mean visiting her is obviously the main draw in driving down to the Bayou State. But even though her cooking is delicious, her showers were hot and her internet fast, we had to move on. So I’d looked up some swamp tours and we discussed maybe doing one. Then as we left Alana’s house, we needed a place to lay our heads. I checked several apps we use for boondocking and found Crawford Landing in Slidell has free camping.
Crawford Landing Campground
We like free, so off we went. It was only about an hour and a half from my sister’s, have I mentioned that we don’t always travel long distances? We like free and we like close. As we took the freeway exit, we noticed the signs for Honey Island Swamp Tours. As we kept turning towards Crawford Landing, we noticed that the tour signs stayed with us. We pulled into the boat landing and camping area to find the tour’s shop in the same parking lot. Obviously, it was fate! We signed up for the next day’s tour and went in search of a camping spot.
Crawford Landing has everything boondockers want: lots of room, huge trees for shade, sunshine and great campers to share campfires with. We came for one night and stayed for four, it was just so easy. Plus as New Years Eve approached, we didn’t really want to be driving and relocating, so we stayed put. The town along the river came alive with fireworks! What crazy parties they have!
If you’re driving West from Mississippi on I10, there’s a rest area with a free dump station, just before the Slidell exit. If you’re heading East, you’ll wait till you get to exit 2 in Mississippi for a free dump station (about 15 minutes away). So free camping, amazing people, a swamp tour and a free dump station. This may be one of our favorite camping spots.
Thanks for reading!If you’re enjoying this post, check out our visit to Hungry Horse Reservoir.
Honey Island Swamp tour
Anyway, the swamp tour was pretty good. I’d give it a B+. Not an A because I actually wanted to learn a little more about the people who live and work in and around the swamp and bayou. The countryside was interesting for sure and our guide was knowledgeable about it, but it seems like they had the opportunity to teach more about the culture around bayou life. I’d have really enjoyed that. The tour was worth it’s $25 price though, that’s for sure. Staying right there at night made our trip to the tour easy the next day! We walked right down to the water’s edge to hop on the boat. One night I saw a huge bird, maybe a heron? I didn’t capture a clear cellphone photo but I stood for about ten minutes watching it and loved every minute of it.
The Crawford Landing Campfire Gang
The people are the best part of Crawford Landing, especially Chad, Will and Natalie. Chad is a Louisiana native, who lives an hour or so away. He was out for the week to hunt deer and pig. Chad reminded me of everything I remember from a childhood in Louisiana. His easy going spirit and laid back attitude made us feel right at home. If you’ve been reading our blog for a while, you know that we’re both introverts who’d just as soon hang out in our camper as speak to strangers! But we enjoyed Chad’s company so much that we plopped ourselves in his camp the second night, ready for a fire, only to realize he was dressed to get dinner in town. Oops.
Will and Natalie drove back in from their daytrip to New Orleans, so we poured drinks and enjoyed the company. Chad and his family have traveled to some of the same spots we love throughout Italy, so it was fun hearing his adventures there. They’ve also spent time in Spain, which is definitely on our list. Huh, a world-traveling Cajun, he may just have changed my narrow view some! Will is from Mississippi and Natalie from Michigan, both in their early 20’s and driving a Toyota Prius. You know it’s true, they’re everywhere! So we all have very different life experiences and political views, but the five of us had great conversations. Just another reminder that we are all more alike than we are different. The goodness of people continues to amaze me.
Traveling in Louisiana is interesting to me, as it’s my first time back without having parents here. I cried a good bit on the drive into the state and I’ve had moments of extreme sadness, alongside other moments of laughter and joy. We moved to Oregon when I was 12, so memories of our time here are faded. Memories outside of our family life, I mean. What’s been neat is how places I’ve never before been have felt like “childhood” to me. Crawford Landing has a distinct fishy, swampy smell that seems familiar to me. The hard packed dirt and crunchy yearround grass is familiar. We’re parked on grass…in December…that’s not possible in the Northwest, as we have too much rain. The soft grass would be torn away, but here, the grass is sturdy and tough in its own way. St Augustine’s grass.
I remember sitting in this grass and pulling blades to whistle through. You have to hold it just right, something I don’t believe I was ever really good at. The gravel here at Crawford Landing is familiar to me too. It’s part gravel, but mostly oyster shell with a fair amount of tiny sea shells too. That feels familiar, so I search the tiny shells, trying to find a full one.
…you can never go home…
While in Baton Rouge, my sister, Alana, drove us past the home we lived in. Our grandparents lived just down the block. I was glad she drove as I would not have recognized it on my own. The street name was as far as my memory went. Steve and I had also driven along False River, where my maternal grandparents retired to. Nothing was familiar, probably because very little was the same. The piers and fishing spots of my childhood memories no longer exist. We drove by my grandparents old house, but again I didn’t actually recognize it. My sisters agreed from the photos it probably is the right place, but it’s not how it seemed back then. The sugar cane field behind them is gone, with another house in its place. The spirit of the place was different, I guess you really can’t go home.
Crawford Landing reminds me of sites and smells of childhood
So it’s been interesting that new to me places feel familiar and inspire memories of a time long gone. Eating fried shrimp from a mom and pop restaurant tasted like “childhood”. Smelling the fishy swamp smells like my grandpa. Walking along oyster shell roads and Augustine grass. These are the memories that are alive and that I’ve come to appreciate through our time at Crawford Landing. The huge oak trees dripping with moss beckon me to come and climb, even while my old knees say hell no. I don’t believe I’ve ever been on a swamp tour, but flying down the river in the boat reminded me of fishing on False River. The water here is so muddy brown, it’s not like anything our own kids have grown up with.
We came for a night and stayed four and in that time I think I found the sights and smells of a childhood growing up in Baton Rouge.