The Barataria Preserve near Marrero, LA is by far one of my favorite places to take out-of-town visitors and local friends. The preserve is composed of nearly 30,000 acres of protected native ecosystems. It is less than 20 miles from New Orleans proper in the larger Jean Lafitte National Park.
From Port Allen, you can arrive in about two hours using the address to the visitor’s center and parking lot at 6588 Barataria Blvd, Marrero, LA for navigation. The gates to parking and restrooms are open daily at 9 a.m. and are locked at 5 p.m.
My recommended route is to start at the short visitor’s center access trial which is a boardwalk path that leads to the Palmetto Trail. The Palmetto Trail ends in another parking lot where you’ll find the beginning of the Bayou Coquille Trail which serves as access to the Marsh Overlook Trail.
The Palmetto Trail is mostly swamp with shaded boardwalks and Cypress knees and trees as far as one can see. The Bayou Coquille Trail runs nearby the Bayou Coquille. When the path turns to the Marsh Overlook trail you walk directly next to the Lower Kenta Canal. Thereafter, you cross two bridges over waterways that finally lead to the overlook where a seemingly endless expanse of marshland greets your eyes. At this point, there is ample seating for a rest. Take time to observe undisturbed nature before you turn around and head back.
Property maps are available in the visitor’s center, which is open Wednesday-Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. but all of these trails are easily marked and are linear without confusing turn-offs. The combination above is a four-mile round trip hike. Since it is mostly flat, it takes about an hour and a half including observation time and stops.
An alternative would be to park in the second lot mentioned, which on the West side of the road and north of the visitor center lot. You can cut the suggested trip above in half by taking only the Bayou Coquille Trail to Marsh Overlook Trail. Other available trails which are located on the East side of Bayou des Families Road tend to be very wet and muddy, requiring waterproof footwear.
It is important to mention no dogs are allowed on the paths due to wildlife in the area. Alligators are frequently spotted and the preserve is home to over 200 species of birds. If your aim is to see an alligator, a warm day on the Bayou Coquille Trial is your best bet.