Kayak down Cane Bayou to Lake Pontchartrain

Paddle through a diverse eco system as Native Americans did long ago. Then dip your toes into the famous Lake Pontchartrain.

Guided kayak swamp tours plus kayak & canoe rentals on Cane Bayou available now.


Cane Bayou is host to our Small Group Canoe and Kayak Swamp Tours plus many of our Moonlight Paddles.

Cane Bayou is a waterway that flows into Lake Pontchartrain from the Northshore. Located between Mandeville and Lacombe, Louisiana, Cane Bayou is the boundary between two public lands – Fontainebleau State Park to the west and Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge to the east. Just 40 minutes from New Orleans, Cane Bayou offers plenty of variety for canoe and kayakers.

There are approximately ten bayous that flow into Lake Pontchartrain. All have been altered extensively in the last 300 hundred years. There is one exception – Cane Bayou which is still largely in a natural state. By being bordered by public lands on both sides, Cane Bayou should retain its natural appearance for the indefinite future.

Cane Bayou in its mile and a half distance to Lake Pontchartrain flows through several habitats. At the launch site, the terrain is known as pine flatwoods. What is striking is that this launch site is at what was once the very edge of the North America continent. From that site out to the Gulf of Mexico, the land has been filled in by the Mississippi River over a period of several thousand years. The Mississippi River water and the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico once were next to the launch site.

After leaving the high ground, the bayou passes the remnant of a cypress forest which once extended out from the bayou along the high piney woods. Decades ago, the cypress trees were killed by unknown causes but the most credible is that salt water from a hurricane was introduced. From about the mid point, the bayou flows through marshes that serve as a buffer between the high piney flatwoods and Lake Pontchartrain. The marshes serve as a nursery for seafood and as a recreational area for hunters, fishermen and paddlers. The last habitat is the lakefront itself with a natural ridge of high ground covered with bushes. A possible fifth habitat is submerged aquatic vegetation that harbor fish, crabs, skates and other marine line. No other bayou that flows into Lake Pontchartrain features so many distinct habitats in such a short distance.


Along the banks of the bayou at one specific site are shells of the rangia clam which indicate that native Americans once lived here. Tchefuncta culture existed from 4,000 years ago up until the arrival of the Europeans three hundred years ago. A tree line off to the west from the midpoint of the bayou also has shells that indicate another Indian camp or settlement.

For canoe and kayak paddlers, Cane Bayou has several appeals. One is that the distance is modest but has considerable variety as described above. Unless there is a strong headwind, the paddling is easy for new paddlers since Cane Bayou will have very modest or no current. Wildlife may be visible as described below. And on hot and humid days, paddlers will want to step out of their canoes at the mouth of Cane Bayou and go wading in the lake’s waters. The bottom is sandy and very firm and the slope is very gradual. The waters will feel cool and refreshing. Sometimes the water is very clear such that crabs, fish and other marine life are visible. If the humidity is low and the sky clear, downtown New Orleans is visible due south of the mouth of the bayou. The causeway is visible to the west and the sweeping arc of the lake’s shoreline extends out into the lake to the southeast.

Wildlife consists largely of birds – a few reptiles. Flocks of ibises, egrets and herons can be seen commuting back and forth to feeding and roosting sites. Osprey routinely dive for dinner in the bayou or the lake. Their nests are visible from the bayou with young being raised in the springtime. Woodpeckers and assorted song birds are seasonal visitors to the living and dead trees visible from the bayou.

Reptiles are represented by alligators which are present in the bayou but do not make themselves very visible. Most paddlers never see one although at night spotlights will reveal their presence.

Cane Bayou is a representative of the habitats of the region, reflects the impacts of early and modern man and now serves as a recreational resource for lovers of the outdoors.