View of Centennial Mountains at Red Rock Lake NWR

View of Centennial Mountains at Red Rock Lake NWR
View of Centennial Mountains at Red Rock Lake NWR

Sunday, March 26, 2017

A Visit to Jungle Gardens

March 19, 2017

A long time ago, I started going on local Sierra Club trips.  One of my favorite memories is of taking a Sierra Club Bike Tour in the area around New Iberia and visiting the Jungle Gardens owned by the Mcilhenny Company, the manufacture of Tabasco. I remembered the hundreds of egrets and scores of alligators in a beautiful landscape made of a mix of open areas, little lagoons, and beautiful live oaks interspersed with clumps of bamboo and palm trees along a wide bayou.

I build a bucket list of places I'd like to visit in every state I linger in, and did the same for Louisiana. I googled gardens of Louisiana and found one intriguingly named Rip Van Winkle Gardens. I decided to visit,  and then noticed that the Tabasco Factory and Jungle gardens was only a few miles away. So for my last big Louisiana adventure, I decided to visit both sites.

I left about 6:30 AM in order to be at the gate to the Tabasco Grounds at opening time. I decided to start with the Jungle Gardens, then do a tour of the Tabasco Factory before visiting the Rip Van Winkle Gardens at the end of the day.

I arrived at Bayou Petit Anse Bridge and stopped to enjoy the view before going the last 50 yards to wait a few more minutes at the gate house, until the park opened. The day was overcast with fog warnings out. I drove the short distance to the gift shop, where the tickets are sold.  I was first in and only noticed a few other visitors during the first hours of my exploration.

Then as the day progressed, the sun sometimes won over the clouds making for a lot of resetting of my camera.  At first, I drove with very frequent stops. As the tour progressed, it was easier to leave the car and just walk. I was entertained and engaged all morning.  It was 12:30 when I thought I had seen pretty much everything there, although I only saw two alligators although I  remember scores of them from a visit about thirty years ago.


Fisherman were already enjoying the overcast day on Bayou Petite Anse

I walked this rickety walkway to look for birds but found none - looking down Bayou Petit Anse

Headquarters for Jungle Garden

View at the start of the auto tour

This was one of two alligators I saw

One of the old buildings

Another stream joins Bayou Petite Anse

Yucca usually blooms in summer - guess plants know summer has arrived

The trees were the best part of the jungle gardens for me

More invasive tung oil tree blooms

Enough sun came out to pick out these brilliant new leaves

The thistle is blooming early - bet the goldfinches are happy

Oh those trees - each one was special and together they made a breathtaking landscape

Part of the sunken garden

I loved the light coming through the many different kinds and colors of bamboo

The new live oak leaves are still colored

Texture is everywhere

This once even larger wisteria tunnel was designed to show all the shades of wisteria

The buddha can see this bridge

The buddha was given to the Mcilhenny family and they built a Japanese garden complete with a reflection pool  and a little house for it. You can climb up to see the buddha.

The sun finally burned the fog into fluffy clouds which made the bayou prettier

I almost didn't see a small patch of swamp spider lilies

One of the reasons to visit the jungle gardens is to see the great egrets in Bird City.  This is a series of breeding platforms in a little cove of Bayou Petit Anse. In 1895, E.A. Mcilhenny noticed that the snowy egrets were almost extinct from the demand for their breeding feathers to decorate women's hats. He captured 8 nestlings and raised them, then released them to migrate south.  The next spring they came back with more snowy egrets and thus was the rookery started. I found this most interesting because this was the most monoculture egret rookery I've seen with EVERY egret a great egret.  The only other birds there were anhingas. I looked at probably eight hundred to a thousand - or more- egrets and could only see great egrets.  I wasn't aware that they already had babies until I looked at the following frame.  I suspect these birds are breeding a little early.


There are at least three nests of babies in this picture

This couple appeared to still be courting

Stay tuned - I'll tell you about the rest of my day in two more blogs. Meanwhile, I'm trying to get several blogs ready to publish because I'll be leaving Louisiana for Texas, then parts west, north, and finally east to Montana, my summer home.

Postscript March 25, 2017

After arriving in Galveston, Friday evening, I joined Natalie and Ellen  as bowman,  in my first paddle after my surgery.  Steering into the water hyacinth and alligator weed to retrieve trash was a good workout for my arm.  However the cleanup was shortened by thunder and a little rain, I barely paddled a fourth of a mile. And I forgot my camera. Tomorrow I'll go on my official first paddle. And get to eat mudbugs, AKA crawfish afterwards. Hopefully I'll be able to share that.