Reign the swamp
Take a dive into the culture and terrain the Cajun Bayou has to offer
The Cajun Bayou — just 35 miles south of New Orleans — isn’t just a place, it’s a culture.
Here you’ll find a 100mile stretch of backcountry beauty peppered with small towns and populated by folks of Cajun heritage. It’s important to note that Cajun is a distortion of the word Acadian. Say “Acadian” three times fast, and pretty soon you’re saying something close to “Cajun.”
Contrary to some assumptions, the Cajuns are not American Indians. They are descendants of French people who settled in Acadia — now Nova Scotia, Canada. In the mid-18th century, the British took over the area and resettled many Acadians to France, the Caribbean, Britain and along North America’s east coast. Some of these North American exiles found their way south, and about 60 years later nearly 4,000 Acadians had settled in Louisiana.
In the semi-isolated marshlands known as the bayou, Acadians adapted their French history to local resources and mixed in American Indian practices to create a distinctive culture. Contributions from this culture are found in regional music, cuisine, language and lifestyle. The first thing visitors here notices might be a French-influenced names of places and people.
Our Cajun Bayou adventure started at midday in Southern Marsh RV Park in Cut Off, Louisiana. We were a little apprehensive about the location, knowing it was behind a casino. We needn’t have worried. The casino was the size of a chain restaurant, not the full-sized convention centers we encounter closer to home. We heard and saw nothing of the gambling crowd.
After parking the RV and trailer, we rolled out the motorcycle and headed north to Thibodaux, Louisiana, to learn more at the Acadian Wetlands Cultural Center. There we traced Cajun housing, clothing, religion, food and music through the centuries. And, because it was Monday, we watched local musicians gather at 5 p.m. for a Cajun Music Jam. The sound is usually composed by accordion and fiddle.
Dinner was Cajun gumbo, the waitress’ mom’s recipe at The Venetian in Thibodaux.
The next morning we rolled east to Airboat Tours by Arthur in Des Allemands, Louisiana, about 45 minutes from New Orleans. We were early, so I had time to chat with namesake Arthur