Renting a Houseboat in the Bayou

Our rented houseboat in the bayou

Say Hello to the Swamp Tuna

Ever wonder what’s its like to live on a houseboat in Louisiana? Well I did and so my husband and I rented a houseboat in the bayou through VRBO. If you’ve looked at my website you will see I love the deep south, specifically Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. My husband, Joe, is an active fisherman and boater and I enjoy wildlife photography and thus our journey begins…

We flew into New Orleans on March 5, 2023, rented a car, and drove about an hour to the grocery store to get some provisions. I called Clark, the owner of the houseboat aptly named “Swamp Tuna” to get directions. I had mentioned we couldn’t find any live crawfish at the grocery store. When we arrived at the boat near Pierre Part, his wife had gone and gotten us steamed crawfish!

In addition to that, the boat was entirely stocked with food: Rice, chips, cookies, ground beef, bacon, turkey lunch meat, vegetables, milk, eggs, bread… you name it! Looking back all we needed was beer and wine.

He quickly gave us the tour of the boat and sent us off for 5 days. Now, here’s where I should mention that he glossed over the composting toilet situation which apparently came from Sweden. I should have taken a picture of it but here is an example. You pee in the front and poo in the back. Full disclosure: This took some practice and was a bit unpleasant dealing with the lack of aim the first time.

We boated for a couple hours and then dropped anchor in a little cove.

Our sleep was not great the first night as we had anchored near a Limpkin nest. When you Google “Limpkin calls” you get “their screaming calls sound almost like a human, crying for help”. The are also called the crying bird. Enough said. We moved on the next day.

Limpkin we saw on our rented houseboat on the bayou

Throughout our 5 day, 4 night journey on the Swamp Tuna we saw so much wildlife and very few boaters. We decided for an additional $150 to tow a john boat around behind us so we could cruise around the little side channels that the houseboat couldn’t get to. This was well worth the money!

Some of the wildlife we saw were: Alligators, limpkins, roseate spoonbill, herons, bullfrogs, owls, bald eagles, nutria, turtles and tons of other birds.

Alligators were EVERYWHERE! Do not attempt to go in the water. I lost count of how many we saw. It was crazy! Surprisingly we saw no deer.

So by now you might be wondering how we didn’t get lost? Surprisingly all the channels were on our map on our iPhone with one caveat: Some channels that looked deep were too shallow or were too vegetated to boat through even with the john boat.

There are several lakes you can traverse through if you choose. We took the houseboat to Lake Verret but didn’t find it as scenic as the bayou channels so we turned around. Each night we stayed somewhere different making sure there were no Limpkins around to keep us up all night.

One day we took the john boat into the town of Pierre Part to check out the houses that abutted the channel. We anchored up at the gas station to get some adult provisions and snacks for our trip. We did spot a very dead wild boar and randomly came across the owner of the Swamp Tuna, Clark, hosing down his fish cleaning area near his house. We inquired about the dead boar face down in the water and was told it bit someone so they killed it and sunk it in the water.

One thing you notice about the area is there are very poor people living in almost squalor and some much nicer houses mixed in.

Some quick facts from the US Census bureau about Louisiana:

  • 20% of the population is in poverty (#1 in the U.S.)
  • Mean value of house is $174,000 (#11 in the U.S. for lowest mean value)
  • 86% have only a high school diploma (#4 in least educated)
  • Medium household income $52,087 (#3 lowest in U.S.)

That being said I find the people in Louisiana to be one of the most friendliest states I have visited. It’s the people that keep me coming back. One thing I love about the area are the accents especially the Cajun accent. It’s so unique.

The oil companies are dominant here. This was evident by the many signs we saw while cruising around our houseboat in the bayou. It made me think what would happen if one of the pipelines broke and the impact it would have on this fragile environment.

We saw quite a few old dilapidated buildings while cruising around our houseboat in the bayou and even an old outhouse (top center photo). We passed an old rental unit (top left photo) and I wondered where the toilet water goes. The house in the bottom photo reminded me of the Adam Sandler movie “The Waterboy“.

A fun fact about Pierre Part is that it has one of the highest percentages of French speakers in the United States. In fact Clark told us that French was his first language and English was his second. Another fun fact: The History Channel’s show “Swamp People” are from Pierre Part and the show was filmed there. The second day of our trip we went to the store “Duffy’s Shell Station” owned by the cast of “Swamp People” and bought 30 lbs. of crawfish. We ate crawfish for 3 days. We even had them with eggs for breakfast!

The area is known for catfishing. While driving the john boat around we came across a friendly gentleman who had been checking his catfish traps and told us stories of the area for about half an hour. It’s always great to talk to the locals. The houseboat had fishing equipment and bait on board and Joe managed to catch 1 catfish. I managed to snag an alligator who broke my line.

catching catfish on our houseboat in the bayou

Taking the john boat through the bayou gives you an amazing perspective of just how beautiful the area is.

Bald cypress trees are dominant in the bayou. The bald cypress is deciduous and loses its needles in the fall. Their buttresses are an iconic symbol in the swamps here.

Cypress trees we saw during on our rented houseboat on the bayou

We had a fantastic time during our 4 nights stay on the Swamp Tuna. My husband, Joe, said it has been his favorite vacation so far. We were so happy we rented a houseboat in the bayou. If you want to get away from life and explore the Louisiana Bayou renting this houseboat in the bayou is the way to go!

Houseboat in the bayou
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