On my homepage I mentioned that I was born and raised in Louisiana in the Lafayette - Henderson area and that in 1890 my grandfather first started a hunting guide service in which he took people into Louisiana's Atchafalaya Basin, a pursuit he continued until 1925.
I would now like to give a little more information about my family history, because I became a tour guide not only out of my own love for the Louisiana swamplands, but also because there is a tradition of close contact with the wilderness in my family that dates all the way back to the nineteenth century which I am proud to continue today.
The story really begins with my great grandfather John Couret (1843-1918). John was a nature lover who was also artistically-inclined and he made quite a reputation for himself as a duck decoy carver and painter. At the turn of the twentieth century his hand-carved and hand-painted decoys were used by duck hunters across much of the southeastern United States, all the way from Texas to Florida. And this is not just an oral history I pass along by word of mouth. In the November/December, 1991 issue of the Louisiana Conservationist magazine, which is published by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, there is an article entitled "Sirens of the Bayous" which mentions my great grandfather's decoys as collector's items which are still avidly sought after today.
My grandfather Luke Couret (1865-1930) started a guide service for duck and deer hunters wanting to go into the Atchafalaya Basin in 1890. For those of you who may not know much about "The Basin," as we refer to it here in Louisiana, this was before the famous Great Flood of 1927, in which the Atchafalaya River, like every other tributary or adjacent channel of the Mississippi River, overflowed its banks and flooded uncounted square miles of land to either side, inundating the Atchafalaya Basin swampland and forcing many small communities at its edges to simply move somewhere else. I mention this because Luke, who had moved his family from Lafayette to what is now called Henderson, arriving in a horse and wagon -- you couldn't take a car into the area then -- also found himself uprooted by the flood. He had settled into the Bay Patin area of what is now known as the Henderson Swamp and during the flood his houseboat, along with so many others, was simply destroyed. This was all before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the levee system which now encloses the Atchafalaya Basin and has helped to preserve some of its more pristine wilderness areas. The experience of the Great Flood of 1927 within my family is not all that different from that of many others in the area by the way. It was a disaster like no other and the historical memories of it survive.
My father Ernest Couret Sr. (1910-1981) kept the family tradition going when he started guiding hunters and fishermen into the Atchafalaya Basin in the early 1950's. The areas he primarily worked were in the eastern end of Henderson Lake, as well as Lake Warner, Cow Island Lake, and Lost Lake; all of which are located not far from the small town of Butte La Rose, which is where I usually begin my own swamp tours today. My father developed a reputation for being one of the best largemouth bass fishermen in the local area, catching them in the Basin before Nick Creme invented the plastic worm, which is frequently the artificial lure of choice for basin fishermen today. He used to hunt ducks in the Basin in the floating duck blinds that are now pretty much a thing of the past and, at certain times of the year when the water levels were right, he would conduct tours deep into the Basin swamp.
So this is the family heritage I uphold today. I know the Atchafalaya Basin, the largest river basin swamp in North America, like few others and I am regularly taking clients who wish to learn about its wonders on swamp tours. I invite you to come and see it for yourself.
Cajun Swamp Tour Guide