190615 Bluebonnet Swamp Ramble

2 Jul

It is easy for a visitor to Louisiana (LA) to mistakenly assume that New Orleans is the capital of the State. New Orleans was indeed the capital of the Spanish and French administered Louisiana.

It is said that the shift of the capital from New Orleans to Baton Rouge in 1864 took place to reduce the tensions between the largely Creole population of New Orleans and the Anglo American population.

Slightly earlier, in 1829-31 the capital of LA was shifted to Donaldsville, 105 kms due West from New Orleans, on the west bank of the Mississippi. This was a failed experiment and the capital shifted back to New Orleans despite the socio-cultural tensions between French speaking Creoles and English speaking Anglo Americans.

The Louisiana State Capitol was designed as a modern skyscraper rather than as a traditional “rotunda-dome-and-wing” capitol instead of being modeled after the US Capitol in Washington.

In 1699, when a French exploration party first visited the site on which Baton Rouge stands today, they came to a spot on the Mississippi where a stream separated the hunting grounds of the Bayougoula and Houmas Indians. They saw a totem pole with the heads of fish and bear which had been sacrificed. The blood stained 30 foot high totem pole was red in colour, giving rise to the name, Baton Rouge (Red Stick) which has remained to this day.

My host in Baton Rouge decided that the best introduction to the city and the region was for me to spend a few hours at the Bluebonnet Swamp.

If you do a search for New Orleans on Google Maps, you will find that it is on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. You will find the Missiissippi River snaking down from the North West, past Baton Rouge. Large parts of Louisiana are swampland supporting its own flora and fauna. The area is famous for reptiles including snakes, turtles and alligators. Where there are swamps we have to expect swarms of mosquitoes. Typical mammals to be found are Raccoons, Otters, Nutria River Rats, Red Squirrels and Wild Pigs. Birdlife includes Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets. Pelicans, Loons, Cuckoos, Owls, Hawks, Warblers and Bald Eagles.

I spent two and a half hours rambling through the swamp which has well managed trails and signboards. The heat and humidity are as extreme as what you would find in Kerala or the Konkan coast.

Maybe because it was at high noon, I didnt see any wildlife to speak of… there was a lot of birdsong which I tried to capture in a video clip.

I must say I never saw any Bluebonnet flowers for which the swamp is named. The Bluebonnet, by the way is the State Flower of neighbouring Texas State.

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