The home and surrounding property that I share with my partner Tom is not only several miles from the nearest large city (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), it is also somewhat isolated from the other homes around us. Our driveway opens onto the single road that traverses the neighborhood, and we can see passers-by from our front entryway and from the screened porch. Otherwise, though, our wedge-shaped bit of land is enclosed by swampy and undisturbed woodland, with additional thick woodland across the road, lending even more quiet and privacy. We’ve nicknamed our place “The Shire” because it’s lush, beautiful, idyllic and beloved by us, just like Tolkien’s fictional Shire is beloved by the hobbits who live there.
We know how fortunate we are to live in such a magical spot and we do our best not to take it for granted. While the vast majority of citizens don’t have what we have, the good news for residents of the Baton Rouge metro area is that there is a similarly lush, idyllic and beautiful place that’s easily accessible and nestled within the city limits.
The Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center is a 103-acre preserve that welcomes use by the public for purposes of education, exploration, conservation and tourism. With minimal human presence in its varied micro-environments that range from cypress-tupelo swamp to hardwood forest, the center is a welcoming home to a myriad of flora and fauna, including armadillos, turtles, raccoons, snakes, hundreds of species of birds, and many more.
Wooden boardwalks and gravel walking paths make investigating the area easy and safe for all ages. Live animals can be seen close-up in the exhibit building, which also hosts other interactive displays, a kids’ play area and a gift shop. The staff and volunteers are friendly, knowledgeable and always ready to lend an explanation or a guiding hand.
Bluebonnet Swamp is open year-round and hosts programs, camps and other events for all ages, including young children. Swamp School and Trail Time for Toddlers are coming up in September, and there’s still time to register!
If you live in or are passing through the Baton Rouge area, I hope you’ll stop to take in the sights and sounds of this natural jewel-inside-the-city. If you can’t get to Bluebonnet Swamp, I hope you’ll look for a nature center, wildlife reserve, park or other wilderness attraction near to you, or anyplace you can acquaint yourself with the plants and animals that share your place. All of our lives come from this precious Earth, and getting to know our non-human kin can be unexpectedly rewarding.