Here you will see Bayou Petite Anse. Petite Anse actually means “Little Cove”. This particular bayou contains brackish water, or briny water, which has more salinity than fresh water and results from the mixing of sea water with fresh water. It runs around the west side of Avery Island and connects to the Vermillion Bay to the south, and eventually to the Gulf of Mexico. To fish in this water, you need two licenses, one for fresh water and one for salt water. Bayou Petite Anse has a history as a watery highway. Back in the 19th century, schooners regularly used it to pick up loads of salt and sugar to transport to New Orleans or even as far as New York.
In November of 1862, Union gunboats and transportation ships came up Bayou Petite Anse and attacked Avery Island hoping to capture the salt mines. The attack was unsuccessful but the Union did capture Avery Island by coming in along the Avery Island road a few months later. Bayou Petite Anse is still used today by both recreational and commercial boaters seeking access to the Intracoastal Waterway and Vermillion Bay. Salt barges and tugboats from the Avery Island salt mine are a common sight as well.
We also invite you to take a walk on our marsh trail as you learn about Nutria. Beyond the lagoon, along this trail, is the old location of E. A. McIlhenny’s Nutria pins. According to his records, McIlhenny was interested in supporting the fur trade in Louisiana and initially became a Nutria grower. The furs were harvested and then dried and sent overseas to be manufactured into fashionable coats. Historically, McIlhenny has been blamed for the state’s nutria invasion, however, McIlhenny was not the first in the state to intentionally release nutria into the wild; nor did he initially import them. Native of South America, the Nutria are large aquatic mammals, somewhat similar to a beaver, but with rounded, rather than flattened tails. Nutria typically have six litters over a period of three years, and after six months of growth and development, their offspring are ready to produce themselves. They are herbivores and feed particularly on wetland plants. Their population in Louisiana has grown substantially since the decline of the fur trading industry in the mid-80’s. Because of their tremendous population, New Orleans even held a nutria festival in 1994 to encourage the consumption of their meat. Though the taste is often favorably compared to rabbit, nutria meat has yet to become appealing to the general public most likely because nutria belong to the rodent family.
Many thousands of acres of, Louisiana’s most abundant natural resource, the coastal wetlands are impacted annually by nutria herbivory damage as the nutria are constantly causing erosion by eating the roots of the marsh grass. The Coastwide Nutria Control Program provides an incentive of $5.00 per Nutria tail for those who hunt Nutria with a proper Louisiana trapping license. On a positive note, there is some thought that the introduction of the Nutria has been an aid in the reviving of the Louisiana alligator population which was once almost extinct.