State sets up 30 campsites for Atchafalaya adventurers

Adventurers in the Atchafalaya Basin can now enjoy a night deep in the swamp at one of 30 primitive campsites accessible only by boat.

The state Department of Natural Resources created the campsites on undeveloped, publicly owned properties in order to allow the public use of the sites without worrying about trespassing on private property.

The state’s Atchafalaya Basin Program, which announced the campsites this month, has cleared out the camping areas and offers online maps and coordinates of the sites, a big boon for Basin campers because it can be difficult to navigate the difference between public land and private property — where campers might not be welcomed.

Rachel Adams, the event coordinator for Lafayette outdoor shop Pack & Paddle, which plans group and private camping trips in the area, said the announcement of the new campsites was “awesome.”

“Most of the land in the Basin is privately owned,” Adams said. “So, usually, we can only do day trips. Now, we’ll be able to stay overnight.”

Atchafalaya Basin Program Director Don Haydel said the campsite project began in 2011, and the general consensus among folks interested in Basin camping was to have only primitive campsites with minimal amenities.

“They just wanted a location that we could plot on a map and to leave it as primitive and natural as possible. We did install a marker post and a fire ring at each site,” Haydel said.

The regional chapter of the Boy Scouts of America was one of several groups involved in choosing the campsite locations with an eye toward helping scouts experience new areas of the vast swamp, said Ben Pierce, with the Boy Scout’s Evangeline Area Council.

“We want the Scouts to get an understanding of our culture here and why the swamp is so important to us and to the rest of the country,” Pierce said. “We’ve got a unique wilderness and we’ve got a really amazing heritage, and people are interested in learning more about us.”

The Evangeline Area Council has also started a Swamp Base program focused on conservation in the Basin and extended adventures there.

“We wanted to get our Scouts more involved in the Atchafalaya Swamp,” he said. “That way they can become the next generation of stewards that go out there to recreate and just to enjoy the amazing wildlife and scenery that we have.”

Haydel said more Basin campsites could be a possibility, depending on public response, and added that he hopes the public will take advantage of the new sites.

“It gives (visitors) the opportunity to look at everything available to them in the Basin,” Haydel said. “It’s really spectacular to see bald eagles pretty frequently out there. It allows them to get away from the hustle and bustle or get out there with a particular thing in mind: exercising, sightseeing, birding or just playing survivor in one of the last great wildernesses of the country.”

Maps, coordinates and survival guides for the new Basin campsites can be found at dothewildthing.dnr.la.gov.

The first 12 campers to submit photos of the campsites and contact info to Atchafalaya@la.gov will receive a “I went wild in the Atchafalaya” hat.