Acclaimed blues musician Tab Benoit is founder of Voice of the Wetlands, a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about Louisiana’s coastal erosion.
Why should someone visit the wetlands?
You feel the life there. It touches all your senses. Every little bit of land is living; it’s got movement. The sounds you hear are sounds you don’t hear anywhere else on the planet. It has inspired artists and painters and photographers and musicians. Even as a kid, I loved that feeling of life all around me.
When’s the best time of year to go?
Summertime is when you can really get that sense of “Wow, this place is alive.” But spring is great, too, when everything starts to green up again. In wintertime, we get the roseate spoonbill, which is a pink bird that almost looks like a flamingo. They fly in from South America.
What’s the best way for people to see these wetlands?
You have to get in a boat or on an airplane. Go to Houma airport and look up Hammonds Air Service to charter a flight. Within thirty minutes of taking off, you’re going to see everything you need to see.
And by boat?
There’s Annie Miller’s Swamp Tours in Houma. She pretty much started the swamp tour business. She’s gone now, but her son does the tours. They go out and call the alligators by name.
Besides alligators, what other wildlife might someone see?
All kinds of fish, turtles, and bald eagles—which are a good indication of what’s going on. Bald eagles nest for life, and they always nest in the big, strong, sturdy, cypress trees. When you see them moving out of their nests, it means the cypress swamp is about to die.
Why are the wetlands disappearing?
We’re losing them because of the manipulation of the mouth of the Mississippi River and the rechanneling of the river water. This is man messing with Mother Nature.
While visitors are in Houma, where can they go to relax and hear music?
On the Canal Bar is a cool spot. Bands play outside when the weather is good. It also happens to be the place where I learned to fly—it used to be a seaplane base. In fact, the stage is right on the ramp where they launched the seaplanes.
Any favorite restaurants?
I like the boiled crabs and crawfish at Big Al’s. He also sells a lot of alligator. At Boudreau & Thibodeau’s, they do old-school recipes, like gumbos and etouffees. It’s authentic home cooking.
Anything else visitors should do while they’re in the area?
I would tell people to drive to Cocodrie and go to CoCo Marina. They have a restaurant and a lot of charter fishing that goes out from there. It’s a good way to take a drive down an old bayou and see the shrimp boats and how people live.
This article appears in our Spring/Summer 2020 issue of Southbound.