NYC Gets Glimpse of Atchafalaya National Heritage Area
by: Mary Forgione
Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger
Swamps aren't very sexy. Dank places filled with slithering creatures don't scream tourism, unless you're from Louisiana. So how would one fare in New York City?
"Swamps in Louisiana have tremendous adventure-travel opportunities," says Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne. On Wednesday, he flew to un-gator-like Manhattan to oversee the installation of a 12,100-cubic-foot re-creation of a Louisiana swamp built inside the city's bustling Chelsea Market.
The exhibit is free and might be a good way to sample the bayou before going to visit. The Chelsea Market swamp features 15-foot cypress trees, six adult and four baby American alligators, red-eared slider turtles and lots of plants that are swamp natives. Louisiana food and music and even some Cajun TV characters are expected to be on hand too.
And as for authenticity, well, it's close enough. The animals are indigenous to the Southern state's swamps but actually came from a sanctuary in upstate New York (although three of the alligators were indeed born in Louisiana).
It's open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily except Sunday and Feb. 8 when hours change to 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The last day of the exhibit, Feb. 12, is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Louisiana tourism folks joined forces with the History channel to bring the ecosystem to the city. The idea in part is to drum up interest in the third season of "Swamp People," the TV show that focuses on gator-slaying subsistence swamp dwellers. The show airs at 9 p.m. on Feb. 9.
"It's authentic life in the bayous and swamps of Louisiana," Dardenne says of the show. "They hunt alligators and live off the land." (He also notes that alligator hunting — for skins and edible meat — is highly regulated in Louisiana.) Troy Landrey, one of the show's colorful characters, will appear Feb. 8 at the NYC swamp.
So where to go to see the real thing? The Atchafalaya Basin in central Louisiana provides acres and acres of swampland that includes a national heritage area. Boat tours, birding, fishing are all reasons visitors go to see the bayou and its culture, Dardenne says.
Until then, Manhattan will have to do.
Location: Chelsea Market, 75 9th Ave. (between 15th and 16th streets).