Jean Lafitte National Historic Park

EDITION 2 |  2:50 read time

Introduction to Jean Lafitte Coquille Trail

GPS Coordinates: 29° 47’ 36.27” N 90° 7’ 18.13” W 

At 4pm Saturday afternoon, May 4, 2019 the temperature at the Jean Lafitte Coquille Trail was 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and mostly cloudy. Located just south of New Orleans, Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve protects significant examples of the rich natural and cultural resources of Louisiana’s Mississippi River Delta region. The park, named after the pirate Jean Lafitte, also interprets the influence of environment and history on the development of the unique Cajun regional culture. The park consists of six physically separate sites and a park headquarters. During this visit, we focused on the Coquille Trail in the Barataria Unit, and often just referred to as JELA.

Information about the Bayou Coquille Trail

Length: 0.5 miles (0.8 km) one way. Boardwalk and packed gravel. Wheelchair and stroller accessible. Access: Bayou Coquille Trail Parking Area. Highlights: giant live oaks, Bayou Coquille, American Indian shell mound, the “Monarch of the Swamp” (600-year-old bald cypress tree), seasonal wildflowers, cell phone tour, trailside signs with information on history and nature.

Evidence of Louisiana’s American Indian Past

Nearly 2,500 years ago, Chitimacha, Houma, and other American Indian tribes populated the Mississippi Delta. These peoples had broad-based economies, permanent settlements, and seasonal camps that utilized the full range of environments and resources of the diverse and fertile region. Visitors can find evidence of their ways of life throughout the Jean Lafitte Historical Park and Preserve. For example, in the Barataria Preserve the “Bayou Coquille Trail” starts at the site of a prehistoric Indian village and continues for 0.5 miles through undisturbed wilderness. French settlers, who obtained the area through land grants in 1726, named the bayou for the mound of clam shells (coquilles) visible here. Later, hundreds of immigrants from Spain’s Canary Islands settled in the Indian village. Middens, mounds, and shell beaches that date to the early period of tribal habitation are still evident throughout the Barataria Preserve. The middens contain remnant piles of ancient meals such as discarded shells and bones. Burial mounds and foundation mounds (used to elevate housing structures above flood level) are also interpreted features of sites.

Large Swamp Tree Species

Cypress – Taxodium distichum

Nature Thread = Resource partitioning: Taxodium distichum (bald cypress) is a deciduous conifer in the family Cupressaceae. It is native to the southeastern United States. Hardy and tough, this tree adapts to a wide range of soil types, whether wet, dry, or swampy. It is noted for the russet-red fall color of its lacy needles. This plant has some cultivated varieties and is often used in groupings in public spaces. Common names include bald cypress, baldcypress, swamp cypress, white cypress, tidewater red cypress, gulf cypress and red cypress.

Water Tupelo-gum – Nyssa aquatica

Nature Thread = Resource partitioning: Nyssa aquatica, commonly called the water tupelo, cotton gum, wild olive, large tupelo, sour gum, tupelo-gum, or water-gum is a large, long-lived tree in the tupelo genus (Nyssa) that grows in swamps and floodplains in the Southeastern United States. Nyssa aquatica trunks have a swollen base that tapers up to a long, clear bole, and its root system is periodically under water. Water tupelo trees often occurs in pure stands.