Lake Martin – Talk about an E ticket ride! You don’t have to tell the Emperley family of Topeka and Silver Lake, Kan., to go to Disney World to get one. Lake Martin has that kind of ride available offered by the tour boat guides along with a lot more - education.
Siblings Stan and Sue Emperley, who now lives in Scott, said that when they saw big alligators while driving on Rookery Road around the beautiful Lake Martin, they thought it would be fun to see what was inside the swamp, too. They were finally lured there by a swamp tour, one of several, they found on the internet.
Was it worth it?
“You betcha!” was their answer.
Lake Martin sets just in St Martin Parish on the west side, several miles south of downtown Breaux Bridge. Look for the green signs pointing the way off La. 31 and La. 353 or the Cypress Island Highway.
Even locals get a better appreciation of the area by driving slowly around the Lake on Rookery Road. The view at sunset from the boat ramp where the Lake Martin Road meets Rookery Road, is absolutely beautiful. People from all over the world come to watch the sun set framed by cypress trees holding thousands of strands of Spanish moss rustling in the wind.
The open lake part of Lake Martin is generally around eight feet deep, but the surrounding swamp where the alligators and river otters dwell is only about three feet deep.
The 2,800 acres in the Cypress Island Preserve has a spectacular rookery off limits until the end of July while the Great Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, Snowy Egret, Cattle Egrets, and Little Blue Heron nest in the trees at the far south end of the Preserve. The boat tours will come as close as they can while not disturbing the chicks and parents on the nests. Bring your binoculars to really see them close, and if you are into Digiscoping – shooting photos through telescope or binoculars – ask your guide to slow down for a minute or two.
The tour, an open outboard-powered boat designed for commercial crawfishing in the swamp, is slow in pace, but high in fun. Going over downed tree trunks or large branches can be challenging for the boat operator, so keep your hands inside the boat. The boat can even be a bit close to the tall bulrushes, or large hyacinths that seem to go on forever. Keep your eyes open for barred or great horned owls, woodpeckers or night-herons.
Next, you get to see the virgin cypress stand on Bayou Capucin, including majestic cypress knees that are over 10 feet tall. Find out the difference between a swamp and bayou (even though you live here and might think you know the answer).
There are awesome tupelo stands that really give you the feeling you are in deep, dark swamp movie like in the movie, “Belizare, the Cajun” – and where, actually, some of it was filmed. Start looking for the alligators, snakes and turtles and anything else that moves in the water.
About this time, the guide – in this case, Brian Champagne – takes the boat into the lake to cross over to the other side to look for more reptiles and birds. Trees draped with moss catch your attention in the bright sun. Guides will let you touch the moss and explain why it was so important years ago.
But the best part of the tour is to see mother nature and how alligators, and birds live in their world. See how the alligator swims around the tree stumps, leaving behind a trail of bubbles. See the turtles disappear in the water from a floating branch and not even leave a trace or a wake. That is the difference between the Lake Martin Rookery Road trip and the swamp-tour boat ride.
Fees are nominal for the 1½ to 2 hour tour.
Three primary guides concerning Lake Martin will give you a tour of fun and adventure.
•Brian Champagne, 230-4068, www.louisianaswamptours.net.
•Walter “Butch” Guchereau, 319-0010 or 332-6365, www.cajuncountryswamptours.com.
•Norbert LeBlanc, 654-1215 or 332-6546.