Last Saturday morning, my mom took me up on a belated Mother’s Day gift – a tour for the both of us with Great Delta Tours. Great Delta Tours offers a hands-on look at the Mississippi River Delta’s development into one of the world’s most diverse cultures and ecologies.
I had the pleasure of meeting one of the company’s founders, Barbara Johnson, through the Louisiana Master Naturalist program. She started the company after working firsthand with coastal communities through the aftermath of the BP oil spill. “I realized that ecotourism was an important economic engine and livelihood for people in our New Orleans area,” she says. “The Great Delta Tours celebrates the Delta as a natural wonder that has shaped an incredible richness of wetlands, cultures, history and economy.” Our tour did not disappoint.
Starting in the French Quarter and winding through Gentilly, New Orleans East and all the way down to St. Bernard Parish and Shell Beach, Barbara’s co-founder, Peter, led our tour. A New Orleans-area geography professor of 25 years and avid birder, he brought both great historical and natural knowledge to the experience.
Here are a few of the many things we learned:
- New Orleans’ Native Americans settled not in the French Quarter but near today’s Fairgrounds and used Bayou Road as a footpath for trade, bringing goods from Lake Pontchartrain ships to merchants in the Quarter
- The half-mile area between Leon C. Simon Drive and Lake Pontchartrain (much of University of New Orleans; campus) was previously part of the lake, as evidenced by remnants of a lighthouse, which is now on-shore
- Oil companies use turkey vultures to lead them to breaks in piping/spills, because turkey vultures are attracted to the decay-like odor of natural gas and oil
New Orleans natives, both my mom and I were shocked at how much we didn’t know about how and why our city developed and continues to develop. For us, the tour was a great mother/daughter outing, but I’d recommend Great Delta to solos, groups, tourists and locals alike.
And, if you’re interested in booking, take $10 off by using promo code ‘SPECIAL.”