One of Camp Salmen’s most popular features is the Swampwalk Boardwalk in the heart of the park, just off the main parking area.It descends into the bottomland fringing Bayou Liberty and adds an impressive wetland dimension to the park. Since Lake Pontchartrain is only about four miles away as the crow flies, the swamp is periodically flooded as lake and bayou rise and fall from high, steady winds. Wind from the east and south makes it go up and north and west winds make it go down. There are almost no lunar tides on this part of the Gulf coast.
Along the boardwalk is a riot of plant life that includes thick clusters of Dwarf Palmetto Palms (Sabal minor). They grow on the slightly elevated parts of the swamp floor, a characteristic that once helped guide both Native Americans and European travelers through the boggy Louisiana landscape. They also utilized the plant’s stiff fronds for weaving baskets and roofing their huts and cabins.
Bald Cypress trees (Taxodium distichum) also grow from the wet soil. They are a Louisiana icon with their hanging moss and little family of “knees” at their base. The exact purpose of these knees remains a mystery but theories suggest they may contribute to the trees stability in the mud and/or its absorption of atmospheric gasses.
At the end of the boardwalk is an observation platform overlooking the quiet bayou. Here are some interesting facts about the stream: Its 20 feet deep at this point and Camp Salmen is about a third of the way up the waterway’s fifteen-mile length. The bayou has been here quite some time; it probably emerged two million years ago when the ocean receded from the Gulf Coastal plain. Native Americans traveled up and down it for thousands of years and lived on its banks. The French began to settle on it in the early 1700s. In fact, they named it after one of their own, a rather roguish individual named Bertand Jaffre, also known by the defiant, individualistic nickname La Liberte’.