I grew up on Long Island. Long Island is 118 miles long and 23 miles wide at its widest point, which means that you are never more than 11.5 miles from the ocean or the sound. We lived a walkable distance from a small beach and about an hour’s drive or less from Jones Beach, and as I may have mentioned before, Grandpa F had a summer home on the water. So even though I was in college before I learned to swim, I love going to the beach.
The problem is, I live in Louisiana. Louisiana has 397 miles of coastline, so you would think we’d have lots of large, lovely beaches the way Texas, Mississippi and Florida do. Think again.
Louisiana also has the Mississippi River. The river has spent eons picking up dirt from further north and dumping it out in the Gulf of Mexico. That means that Louisiana has a highly irregular, marshy coastline that is wonderful for fishing and boating but not so much for swimming. If you look at the map here
you can see how irregular the Louisiana coastline is compared to the area to the upper right, which is Mississippi, and how much further it projects out into the Gulf.
So going to the beach if you live in Louisiana is a bit of a project. In the southwestern part of the state, near the Texas border, the coastline is more regular and there is a stretch known as “the Cajun Riviera”. The largest barrier island, Grand Isle, has a state park with a stretch of public beach, but it’s over 3 hours away through one of the country’s most notorious speed traps. The nearest beach to us is at Cypremort Point, over 2 hours away and in the vicinity of Avery Island. In fact, to get to it, you pass another salt dome, Weeks Island, part of which is used for part of the strategic oil reserve and part of which is mined by Morton Salt.
Cypremort Point State Park is a small stretch of land on Vermilion Bay, and the beach is miniscule. You can probably walk the entire length of it in five minutes. If “beach” to you means beach resorts with parasailing, beachside restaurants and bars, tacky little souvenir shops where you can buy all the stuff you forgot to pack, and a place to buy an ice cream cone, this is not that place. To find a restaurant or convenience store, you need to drive a half hour in one direction or another to New Iberia or Jeannerette. There is no life guard and a lot of the time you can’t go in the water due to high bacterial levels. (Well, they post warnings. People go in anyway.)
The same 2 hour or so drive can take you to Mississippi, and before casino gambling was legalized in Mississippi, that’s what we used to do. Now that casinos are up and down the beach, it isn’t as pleasant for us as it used to be. So if we want the beach life, it means an overnight trip further along the coast, either east or west. If we want a picnic and a dip, Cypremort Point State Park will do.
|The beach looking right|
|The beach looking left|
One thing I do enjoy about the park is that it has picnic shelters just a few steps from the beach, so you can escape into complete shade when you’ve had enough sun. What with all the rain lately, the shelter had become home to quite a lively crop of mosquitoes. We had packed insect repellent, but by time I found it a few dozen mosquitoes had had me for lunch.
There was no sign up signaling a too high bacteria count, so I was able to splash around while John fed bread to the crows. Somehow my idea of beach life does not include crows.
Driving home, we passed the sign that said “Otter Crossing”. I have yet to see an otter at Cypremort Point, although I did see one crossing the road at Port Fourchon.
“I am in otter disbelief,” I remark to John.
“What are you talking about?”
I explain about the sign.
“Well, maybe they are otter here. Maybe they went the otter way.”
We made it home in time to beat the late afternoon rain. If there is one thing Louisiana has, it is a lot of water. Just very little beach.