In 1950 the State of Louisiana and land owners around Lake Martin Swamp entered into a lease agreement that allowed the state to build and keep up a levee encircling Lake Martin to maintain a deeper constant water depth for the purpose of creating a public hunting and fishing preserve. This levee stopped the seasonal water fluctuations that are characteristic of backwater swamps turning a large portion of this swampy wetland area into an impoundment. As an added bonus the impoundment created an environment very attractive to alligators and wading birds. The wading birds now utilize the area for feeding, roosting and rookery purposes. This area supports one of Louisiana’s largest populations of alligators of over 10 feet long.
Once the Mississippi River changed course, around three thousand years ago, sediments that were gradually filling in the Cypress Island/Lake Martin Swamp largely disappeared, leaving this swamp in a state of “suspended animation” awaiting the return of the Mississippi River and its dynamic land building forces.
Little had changed until the early 1900’s when a canal was dug through the swamp to connect the Bayou Teche to the Vermillion River just north of Lake Martin. The main reason for this canal was to help stop saltwater intrusion on the lower Vermillion River, which is actually an estuary, allowing more land to be utilized for agriculture.
This ridge of land is where many Acadians came to start their new lives after cruelly being exiled from their new homeland, Acadia, by the British in 1755.
The swamp tour site is Cypress Island/Lake Martin Swamp, a backwater swampy area cut off from the main Atchafalaya River Basin Swamp by a long, wide, low ridge of land called the Teche Ridge. Named for the bayou that occupies the old Mississippi River bed today. The Teche Ridge was formed over three thousand years ago by the Mississippi River’s seasonal flooding and deposition of sediments from an area comprising thirty-two of today’s United States.