Maurepas Swamp, Part 3

The Swamp Next Door:
Restoring Maurepas Swamp
for Wildlife and Communities

Written by Wendy Billiot for Louisiana Wildlife Federation

Driving southeast from Baton Rouge on Interstate 10, many people may not realize they are driving through the second-largest contiguous coastal forest in Louisiana–the 140,000-acre Maurepas Swamp. Its southeastern boundary is near where Interstate 55 and Interstate 10 intersect. Traveling north on Interstate 55 and west on Interstate 12 completes a circuit around this huge swamp that offers access to a place of beauty and serenity in the midst of densely-populated areas of southeast Louisiana.

The Maurepas Swamp provides valuable habitat for wildlife, birds, and fish. Within the swamp, the 125,000-acre Maurepas Wildlife Management Area, maintained by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, offers ample places for hiking, paddling, hunting, fishing and bird watching.  Even with these recreational opportunities, one of its most important functions is that of a protective barrier for surrounding communities.

During hurricanes, the trees along waterways and within the swamp serve as buffers against high winds.  Baldcypress trees, in particular, have been shown to be resilient to the effects of storms, with mature trees providing a wind buffer.  During hurricane-driven storm flooding and substantial rainfall, the trees’ root systems work like siphons, sucking up hundreds of gallons of storm water and rainfall, with some mature baldcypress trees absorbing up to 880 gallons of water per day.  This storm-water uptake is vital in protecting outlying communities from flooding.

Maurepas Swamp’s natural functions actively protect citizens, industry and infrastructure in heavily-populated communities in and around East Baton Rouge, Livingston, Ascension, St James, St John, and Tangipahoa Parishes during storms and hurricanes. This swamp is part of the coastal forested wetlands of the Mississippi Delta valued between $3.3 and $13.3 billion per year, providing great economic value for the region.

Over the past several decades, this baldcypress-tupelo forest has experienced significant degradation due to increased salinities and subsidence associated with the leveeing of the Mississippi River and decreased riverine input of fresh water. In spite of the degradation, the Maurepas Swamp continues to perform other vital functions, like the anchoring of the fragile wetland soils.  The roots of all the trees, grasses, and other vegetation within the swamp hold the much-needed sediment in place, protecting it from being washed away by water action.

Restoring and maintaining the health of the Maurepas Swamp is vital to the region. With the completion of the Mississippi River Reintroduction into the Maurepas Swamp project, these benefits to those who live, work, and recreate within the Basin will be significantly improved and sustained. The project is included in the approved 2017 Louisiana Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast to divert fresh water and fine sediments from the Mississippi River into the swamp — helping to refresh and restore roughly 45,000 acres of forested wetlands. A healthy Maurepas Swamp habitat for wildlife is vital for communities around it.

Image result for mississippi river reintroduction into maurepas swamp

This article was written by Wendy Billiot for the Louisiana Wildlife Federation. To learn more about Wendy’s work, visit

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  1. I never realized it was that large! And the amount of water one Bald Cyprus can soak up is astronomical!

    Your photo makes me want to sit on a dock with my feet propped up and something cool to drink beside me while I sit and dream. Although right now, I would be wrapped in a fleece blanket, shivering and praying for coffee or hot chocolate! It is 15 here. Hope you didn’t get all the nasty stuff that passed thru last night.

    1. Oh yes! We absolutely did get that nasty stuff. Steffi is farther north than I am, so she probably was at 15 with maybe some snow. I think our low during the night before and last night was 22, but that is really cold for here. Everything is iced over, and this morning, my water is frozen. Heck, I had left the hot/cold faucet dripping last night and someone went behind me and shut it off. Great, no water. That means no coffee, which means grouchy BW and a possible headache! Wah wah wah! Poor poor me, but really I’m so thankful in weather like this to have a home with heat and warm quilts and I feel so sad for those who don’t. Can’t even imagine being out in this. I HATE the cold, truly. Oh, and town pretty much shut down yesterday and today — no school, no govt. work, etc.

  2. 880 gallons of water a day! I too had no idea they could suck up that much in a day.
    Thanks for the info on what is basically in my backyard.

    1. I know, isn’t that crazy? That is a statistic taken from studies of different types of trees, so it could be more or less, but it’s typical. That’s why when you see trees being cleared for more CONCRETE parking lots and stores, you can now know how much more important that makes forced drainage, because the trees are no longer there to perform storm-water uptake. Nobody thinks about that–it’s just progress, progress, progress, development, development, development. Now, does the term “tree hugger” make more sense?

  3. The closure of the MRGO has greatly reduced the salinity levels in Lake Maurepas. I used to catch reds and specks near I55 at Manchac Pass but now its all bass, bream and catfish.

    1. Wow! Great to her from you, Choup! This is information I did NOT hear from anyone who lives near, fishes, or hunts the Maurepas. Very interesting, indeed! Thanks for letting us know! Do you fish the Minimalist?

  4. I did not. Out of 125 contestants, only 45 weighed fish and only 11 specks were weighed. Brendan caught 10 of those along with a limit of nice reds and won it going away. His fish were stacked in one of my favorite bank fishing spots close to Leeville.

    1. Well, good for him. I heard Brendan on the radio with Don and Martha that morning while he was paddling out to start fishing. Didn’t even know what time weigh-in started, LOL!!! No doubt, had you fished, you would’ve had to fight him for your hole! 🙂

    1. Hi Jeffery, After looking at the LDWF website and the PDF map of the Maurepas WMA, it appears to me the only way to reach it is by boat. Here’s what LDWF says about it: Camping: There are two tent-only camping areas; one is on the New River Canal and the other on Reserve Canal. You can access the WMA area by boat via the Blind River and the Reserve Flood Relief Canal. You can also access on foot; major highways crossing through the area include I-10, I-55, U.S. Hwy 51, and LA Hwy 641. There are 16 self-clearing permit stations located throughout the WMA. (In case you aren’t familiar, in La. if you do not hold a current hunting or fishing license, you must purchase a WMA permit that allows you access to all WMAs in the state, and then please fill out the self clearing information card at the Kiosk provided for that purpose OR download their new app that allows you to check in and out on your smart phone.)

      Looks like to me, though, that it’s by boat only!!! I’ve emailed them to find out for you. Best of luck to you, BW

      1. And here’s where you would have launched from according to person at LDWF: It is accessed by boat only via new river canal. The main boat launches used to access this area are:

        St. James Boat Club on Hwy 61

        The public boat launch off Paul Road in Sorrento on to Bayou Francois near Hwy 22

        Canal Bank Launch at Hwy 22 on the Amite River Diversion Canal