Goldfish Bayou creeps out of the Camp Salmen woods, passes under Parish Parkway and our wooden bike path bridge on its way to Bayou Liberty. Recent brush clearing has revealed more of it in the busy Camp Ridge part of the park.
The stream is typical of the web of natural channels that drain both rainwater and oozing groundwater from the coastal plain. In developed urban areas like Slidell, these streams are usually either replaced or modified by drainage ditches, but the Goldfish meanders through the woods in a mostly natural state. As such, it has to do a lot of dodging and ducking around both dead and living trees.
The Goldfish is what is known as an intermittent stream. Though it carries water most of the year, only the wider, deeper part at its end holds water year round. Standing water disappears from the upper parts of the channel during summertime dry spells.
Goldfish has an unusual tributary. While the bayou minds its own business as it winds through the woods north of the park’s main trail, just south of the trail is the shallow ex-clay pit that comprises the park’s Gum Swamp. Water held here does not flow to the bayou by way of a channel but, instead, flows from the pit over ground to the Goldfish as sheet flow. You can see the brown stains and muddiness from this periodic phenomenon on the path through the field at the entrance of the main trail.
With the coming and going of the water in Goldfish over the course of the year, there is an ebb and flow of life in the bayou. Small fish and the micro-critters they feed on invade the stream as long as there is enough water to wet their gills and then retreat downstream as the stream dries. So too for predators like snakes and birds who hunt for them. An otter was once spotted as he prospected up the bayou looking for what it had to offer in the way of food.
In places where the bayou backs up and spreads out a bit one can find open areas that hold water long enough to be clear of undergrowth. These are among the prettiest spots in the park and one such place can be found on the trail north of the nearby Salmen Lodge. It is interesting to speculate on just how the bayou may have been used by the people who occupied the building in its long history as a home and trading post.
So why is it called Goldfish Bayou? Goldfish are not naturally found at all in Louisiana but I bet it had something to do with the boys who were once Scouts here.