Paddlers from near and far will take over Bayou Lafourche for a four-day Cajun experience, as the Barataria-Terrebone National Estuary Program hosts its 16th annual Paddle Bayou Lafourche event this weekend.
The bayou will host several paddleboards, kayaks, pirogues and canoes. Participants, ranging from newcomers to a couple of people in their sixteenth straight visit, get to experience 54 miles of Bayou Lafourche up close and personal. Paddlers start their trip from the beginning of Bayou Lafourche in Donaldsonville to Lockport. Paddlers have the option to choose what day or days they want to participate.
Since 2001, the event has aimed to educate the historical, cultural and economical value that bayous and wetlands have on this region of southern Louisiana. Kayaking and paddling down Bayou Lafourche is one way BTNEP gets people together and focusing on that value.
Susan Testroet-Bergeron has been the director of BTNEP for over two years now. She believes there are different aspects the paddlers can take from the event. She’s looking forward to what the weekend brings.
“I love to see the camaraderie of the paddlers as they learn about the value of our ecosystem and ecology,” Bergeron said. “I am also absolutely fascinated by the kindness and warmth that our local people show to our paddling guests by coming out each day to greet the paddlers. Some people share their gift of music, others share food, while others share their smiles and welcoming waves. It is a heart-warming event.”
Nicholls students volunteer in the event. Students will help in the preparation of the meals and help paddlers get in and out of the water.
When paddlers are not in the water, they can be found creating friendships with others.
This year, entertainment will come from the Cajun Music Preservation Society on Friday and Sunday, and on Saturday the Houma Nation Indian will perform a rendition and provide Indian cuisine. Also, this year’s paddlers will be able to pass the train bridge in Donaldsonville after the completion of the dredging project.
BTNEP just recently recorded data that shows clean up crews have picked up about 20 tons of trash over the last two weeks. For this reason, BTNEP takes pride in this event and hopes that it shows the good, bad and ugly that resides in the bayou.
According to BTNEP’s website, the bayou is the source of drinking water for over 300,000 residents, as well as a hub of economic activity for the boat-building industry, the port and fishermen alike.
Kristy Monier, BTNEP media and public relations coordinator and primary project manager for the Paddle Bayou Lafourche, knows how important the bayou is to the area of southern Louisiana and how its state affects the people around the community.
“It’s a major source,” Monier said. “It’s the water you’re drinking, what you’re bathing in and it’s what you’re washing your dishes in.”
Outside of the technical aspects that it takes to put the event on, Monier believes the weekend is simply a great atmosphere for peace, bonding and learning.
“Our focus is yes, the bayou is important, but what is happening to our coast and what we are going to lose once the coast fades,” Monier said. “We’re going to lose more than just land and water, but also people and culture. We educate each other and celebrate and all of the values at the same time.”