Louisiana tourist destinations go far beyond showcasing local wildlife

Capt. Rick ‘Ricky’ Johnston is a tour coordinator for McGee Swamp Tours. Located in Henderson, McGee’s teaches and educates visitors on the history, significance and wildlife of the Atchafalaya Basin.

Photo by Brooklyn Fields-Meaux

By Brooklyn Fields-Meaux

McGee’s Swamp Tours, located in Henderson, is a tourist destination dedicated to educating visitors on the history, significance and wildlife of the Atchafalaya Basin.

According to Manager Robert Donadieu, McGee’s is essentially a year-round fundraiser for an education project known as Louisiana Swamp Basin. 

Donadieu said the educational project focuses on highlighting the distinct qualities Louisiana has to offer through science, technology, engineering, arts and mechanics, or S.T.E.A.M.

“What that ‘A’ represents for us is also culture. So what you’ll find here in Louisiana that makes us so unique is culinary art, stuff we do with wood and paintings,” Donadieu said.  “It’s photography and it’s the music that we play here. You know, all the things that really define us is what we want to keep thriving in our area.”

Louisiana Swamp Base’s educational center can be expected in five to seven years. The project’s initial phases should begin in the next couple of years according to Donadieu. 

Donadieu is in charge of the business’ daily operations, which mostly includes scheduled tours of the central Atchafalaya Basin. 

Employees such as Capt. Rick “Ricky” Johnston and tour coordinator, Katrina Collette, find ways to assure tourists leave McGee’s educated and intrigued.

 “This place isn’t dead. It’s full of light,” Johnston said while identifying the three main regions of the Atchafalaya Basin. 

While coasting through the cypress-central region of the Basin, Johnston described how the employees maintain a respectable relationship with the local wildlife. 

Johnston said his respect and love for alligators started at the age of 7. He said his childhood on the Calcasieu River included plenty of adventures and a close relationship with his pet alligator, Hermit. 

Johnston said he enjoys giving educational tours to schools and boy scout troops of Louisiana. 

 Through the education project, Johnston said there is more opportunity for students to appreciate the Atchafalaya. He said he hopes the youth fall in love with this place just as he did.

Capt. Rick ‘Ricky’ Johnston, tour coordinator for McGee Swamp Tours, explains the wildlife and nature to tourist while also educating them on the importance of the Atchafalaya Basin.

Video by Brooklyn Fields-Meaux

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