Bayou Campin’ // Elevated Livin’

by Mallory Matherne, co-features editor

Camping in South Louisiana is the Cajun way of taking time off and getting together with family and friends to play in the water — whether it’s boating, swimming or hunting and fishing. Louisiana isn’t home to many beaches, so locals make do with what they have building get-away homes on bayous, lakes and the Gulf.

“Nothing beats going to the camp for a weekend,” says Blaine Landry, who has a camp in Grand Isle. “I meet so many people out there just by anchoring my boat next to theirs. Someone offers you a beer and the next thing you know someone’s frying fish and grillin’ for everyone. Then next time you go to the camp you’ll see them again on the water or at the gas station or wherever and they act like y’all are lifelong friends. You can’t find that anywhere else.”

When locals refer to “camps,” it means anything from a trailer on stilts to a mansion somewhere on water that isn’t a primary residence. Most all camps are raised high to avoid flooding using the space underneath for parking, storage and party space. Camps can have a single owner or be shared by family and friends with different people claiming different weekends and parts of the summer or even be rented out. Camps can also be grouped by function — a hunting camp just for the guys or a camp to bring the whole family. From Grand Isle on the Gulf of Mexico to Bayou Dularge and Lake Verret, these getaways are just a way for South Louisianans to enjoy the water.

The camps “down the bayou” — a phrase locals use to describe the areas along the bayou toward the Gulf of Mexico — in Chauvin, Dulac, and Dularge are noted for their vibrant colors, mismatched knicknacks, and wrap-around decks. Some camps are smaller, one-story houses. Others are big enough to house several families and feature pools and hot tubs. Some of the more modern camps have elevators, electronic boat lifts, and a floating cabana.

The older camps along the bayou ― the ones that survived the hurricanes ― were originally homes to local families. Although there are quite a few surviving camps, in the last few decades there’s been an influx of larger modern camps. These new camps were built solely to be rented as summer vacation spots.

Boudreaux’s Marina owner Andre Boudreaux says most camps today are boarded up in the off-season and rented out from March to October. Boudreaux, who works in Chauvin at the marina and as a boat captain, says his customers become regulars pretty quickly. Most people will rent a camp for an entire summer. Boudreaux says almost no one lives in their own camps these days.

Rayford Reeves, who owns a luxury houseboat that docks in Dulac, says the houseboat is a great investment — a party and a place to stay all in one. The houseboat has several bedrooms, a kitchen, an upper deck with a grill, and a boat lift for his motor boat. Reeves says he uses his houseboat to cook for and entertain business partners, party with his friends, and relax after a demanding workweek.

“I can take my friends out for a day of drinking and partying on the water and no one has to worry about getting home safely,” he says. “They can all crash on the boat! It’s a mini getaway.”

by Jenna Quick, photo editor