Visitors to Camp Salmen can plainly see just how scenic Bayou Liberty is from our banks. There are many alluring glimpses through the overhanging vegetation and panoramic vistas of the bayou’s slow, swirling currents and deep quiet. However, there is even more to be seen for those who wish to launch a canoe. We have a special spot on our bank just off the main parking lot where people are encouraged to bring their paddle-craft to the water for cruising up or down this historic stream. They will see beautiful wetlands teeming with wildlife and lovely, historic homes and estates.
The launch has a gentle slope above and below the water line, making it fairly easy to manage a canoe launching. Like a lot of our bayou bank, it’s loaded with brick chunks leftover from Fritz Salmen’s brick-making enterprise as well as those who preceded him in doing this same thing at this location. In fact, there were piles of brickbats noted on the deed when Joseph Laurent bought the property for his Indian Trading Post (the Salmen Lodge) in the early 1800s. We have covered the launch area with sand to smooth it out.
Those launching their expeditions are encouraged to fill out one of the Float Plans offered in the Information Binder in the Main Pavilion and leave it face up on the dash of their car or under their windshield wiper in case their return is somehow delayed.
A paddle upstream on Bayou Liberty will fairly quickly bring one to the bridge over U.S. 190 and the wooden boardwalk of Carollo Station, currently the eastern end of the Tammany Trace bike path. Traveling much further upstream will take one on a jolly fifteen-mile long slog up a winding, narrowing stream full of various wooden obstacles. Most people prefer to travel downstream where it widens up considerably. Camp Salmen’s location has historically been considered the stream’s head of navigation and was wide enough for Laurent to turn around his 50 ft. schooner, the Marguerite.
As the crow flies, Lake Pontchartrain is only four miles away but somewhat longer to paddle downstream around the bayou’s twists and turns. The Scouts used to routinely paddle from here to camp the night on the lake’s starry shore.
The bayou flows through the heart of Bonfouca, a place occupied for thousands of years by Native Americans and settled by some of the first French in Louisiana. Their succeeding generations became both Creole and American. They farmed the land along the banks, raising crops and livestock, hunted its woods and marshes, and took advantage of the surrounding timber to make various products. They also built boats to trade their bounty of the land with the growing city across the lake and other coastal communities. There is a pride found on this bayou from people who know their long heritage. The new, upstart railroad town of Slidell next door should also be proud of having such a noble, older sister for a neighbor.
For a really adventurous paddle, go past the historic St. Genevieve Catholic Church where the bayou flows into open marsh and joins with its twin, Bayou Bonfouca from old downtown Slidell to flow to the lake and all the possibilities of exploration along the wilderness shore.