It’s downtime for tourism in Louisiana. Tourism officials in the Atchafalaya Basin are taking advantage of the hot summer break to prepare for another busy season.
Since the launch of the popular reality show, Swamp People, in 2010, visits to the area are way up.
Executive Director of the Atchafalaya Basin Heritage Program, Deb Credeur, says they’ve seen a 15 percent jump in the number of people stopping by the visitor center.
She talked with WRKF’s Tegan Wendland about the draw of Louisiana’s swamps and bayous.
WENDLAND: The Atchafalaya National Heritage Area actually covers a lot more than just the basin. Could you kind of give us an idea of how far it reaches out from north to south and what actually falls within that designation?
CREDEUR: Okay. The Atchafalaya National Heritage Area is a national park service program and a partnership with the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism under the Lieutenant Governor's Office and it runs from Concordia Parish in the north all the way down to Terrebonne Parish in the south and the reason being these are the parishes that roughly surround the Atchafalaya River.
WENDLAND: How has the popularity of the History Channel's Swamp People really impacted people's interest in the area?
CREDEUR: Well, it has provided a glimpse into a part of our culture and has actually opened the door in a lot of ways for use to further expound on the aspects of that culture. Even though alligator hunting is only a month a year, there are other components to that that lifestyle - with cooking and trapping. So it's been an entrée into glimpsing what our culture is all about.
WENDLAND: So would you say that you've seen an interest since the show's debut or just within the past couple of years in general?
CREDEUR: Both are true but I would strongly say that since the show began on the history channel there's been a marked increase and interest in Louisiana.
WENDLAND: So lots of people coming for swamp tours?
CREDEUR: They are coming. Or just to see where swamp people live. You know there's a lot of interest from all over the United States and internationally as well.
WENDLAND: If you're not coming because you think Swamp People is a really great show, why else should people be interested in this area.
CREDEUR: Well, it has been compared to the Everglades, and I would say it's almost even more special because of all of the cultural influence - that in itself is interesting to people, it's a very different way of living and we've finally had some spotlight on that. Our Office of Tourism has really done a great job of promoting that and stayed with authentic Louisiana experiences and I think people appreciate that.
WENDLAND: Some of the cypress trees out there are several thousand years old, much older than the redwoods, and I think the area is so much less well-known.
CREDEUR: Yes, that is true. I was with a group that was at a recognition ceremony for cypress trees recently and the children that were there were just in awe that perhaps native Americans had passed there or built their camps there - this was actually down at the John Lafitte Historical Park in the Barataria Preserve - and we speculated that maybe John Lafitte the pirate had sat beneath that tree counting his loot at one point. So it's a sobering experience to realize that you're standing next to something that's been there maybe 2,000 years in some instances, some of the trees are documented to be around that age.
WENDLAND: Well, thanks for your time today.
CREDEUR: Thank you.