The George Wright Society Conference on Parks, Protected Areas & Cultural Sites • New Orleans, Louisiana • March 14–18, 2011

Field trips


As always, GWS2011 will feature a varied roster of Field Trips: learning opportunities outside the confines of the host hotel.  We offer half-day trips on Wednesday afternoon, March 16, and two full-day trips on Friday, March 18.  Read on for details!  And click here for opportunities to participate in Service Projects (also scheduled on Wednesday afternoon and on Friday).


Half-day Field Trips, Wednesday, March 16

Barataria Preserve Delta Overview and Marsh Restoration


Led by National Park Service / Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve

Barataria PreserveBarataria Preserve

Depart hotel: 1:30pm

Arrive back at hotel: 6:30pm

Gear you'll need: Outdoor activewear/rainwear, water-resistent boots/outdoor shoes, bug repellent, water bottle, snacks.

Cost: $20

Barataria Preserve, a unit of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve, interprets the culture of people, past and present, who settled the Mississipi delta and the unique ecosystem which sustained them. It preserves a representative example of the delta's environment with its natural levee forests, bayous, swamps, and marshes. Though wild, and teeming with wildlife, this is not a pristine wilderness. Evidence of prehistoric human settlement, colonial farming, plantation agriculture, logging, commercial trapping, fishing, hunting and oil and gas exploration overlay much of the preserve.

 This will be an opportunity to experience a portion of the largest and most productive coastal wetland in temperate North America and see some of its abundant wildlife. The Mississippi River delta is among the most threatened ecosytems in the world and is in a state of rapid collapse, losing about 35 square miles of wetlands every year for more than 50 years, with no end in sight without a fundamental re-engineering of the river. But an alliance of state and federal agencies, citizens and stakeholders is working to stem the tide and, by harnessing the Mississippi River's delta building potential, recreate a sustainable delta ecosystem.

The group will be split—half will start out on foot and half by boat, changing places midway through the field trip. Group A will be guided along the Bayou Coquille and Marsh Overlook Trails through a geological and biological cross section of the delta ecosystem. They will visit a prehistoric Indian Midden along the natural levee of an abandoned Mississippi River distributary course, traverse a swamp forest, and end the walk along a late nineteenth century logging canal on the edge of a globally rare floating estuarine freshwater marsh. From here they will board the boat. Group B will reverse course along the boardwalk and trail.

The boat trip will visit the marsh and a canal reclamation project financed through ARRA. Oil and gas access canals and developer's levees that pre-dated the establishment of the Preserve left behind exotic tree covered
spoil banks and deep canal beds that disrupted hydrology. The reclamation project involved removing spoilbanks, backfilling canals, and re-establishing platforms for re-colonization by wetland communities. The
boat trip will also allow visitors to see the effects of the recently opened Davis Pond Freshwater Diversion, which shunts water and sediment from the Mississippi River into the upper Barataria basin to mimic the natural spring flood, now blocked by man-made levees. This is the largest restoration project completed to date in coastal Louisiana, and is a precursor of the still larger projects now being planned to save the delta.

The trip will depart the hotel Wednesday afternoon at 1:30 and return by 6:30. Travel time to and from the Preserve is approximately 35 minutes each way.  Participants should expect to traverse about 1.5 miles of level hard-surfaced trail and boardwalk, with two elevated bridges and a marsh viewing platform accessed by steps. Expect to spend about 1.5 hours on a pontoon boat. Dress appropriately and be prepared for sun, rain, and biting insects. The final stop will be a visit to the Barataria Visitor Center which features displays on the delta ecosystem as a whole and the crisis it faces.

Walking Tour: The Culture and Architecture of the French Quarter

Led by Friends of the Cabildo


Friends of the Cabildo walking tour of French QuarterFriends of the Cabildo walking tour of French Quarter

 Depart hotel: 1:45pm

Arrive back at hotel: 4:30pm or later, depending on your own plans

Gear you'll need: Good walking shoes; rainwear or umbrella, or sun hat, as appropriate to the weather that day; water bottle; snacks.

Cost: $20 

We have arranged a special walking tour of the world-famous French Quarter with Friends of the Cabildo, a non-profit volunteer group organized in 1956 to provide support for the Louisiana State Museum.  There are plenty of operators offering guided tours of the French Quarter, but the Friends of the Cabildo tours are distinguished by their knowledgeable guides—people who really know the unique culture and architecture that underlay the Quarter and make it much more than just another tourist attraction.  This tour will take you past the blare and the glitz and gives you a glimpse of the heart and soul of New Orleans. 

Tour proceeds benefit Friends of the Cabildo.

The tour will gather in the Sheraton lobby at 1:45 pm and then walk as a group 7 blocks (10-15 minutes) down Decatur Street to Jackson Square and the Cabildo's 1850 House Museum, where the tour will depart from at 2:00 pm.  The tour will take a little more than 2 hours and involves around 1-1.5 miles of walking.  The tour will end at Jackson Square, after which you can continue to browse around the city on your own, or return to the Sheraton.

(In addition to other cultural institutions throughout the state, there are five museums in the New Orleans French Quarter that are operated by the Louisiana State Museum. The  Cabildo traces the history of Louisiana, while the 1850 House shows life as it was in mid-nineteenth century New Orleans. The Presbytere houses a Mardi Gras Museum and the new, interactive multimedia exhibit Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond. The Old U.S. Mint houses coinage and the state-of-the-art Louisiana State Museum Historical Center, and Madame John's Legacy is an architectural landmark.)

Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery History and Restoration tour

Led by National Park Service / Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve

Chalmette BattlefieldChalmette Battlefield

Depart hotel: 1:30pm

Arrive back at hotel: 6:00pm

Gear you'll need: Outdoor activewear/rainwear, water-resistent boots/outdoor shoes, bug repellent, water bottle, snacks.

Cost: $20

Just downriver from New Orleans is Chalmette Battlefield, is the site of the January 8, 1815, Battle of New Orleans. Many people believe that this last great battle of the War of 1812 between the United States and Britain was unnecessary, since the treaty ending the war was signed in late 1814, but the war was not over. The resounding American victory at the Battle of New Orleans soon became a symbol of a new idea: American democracy triumphing over the old European ideas of aristocracy and entitlement. General Andrew Jackson's hastily assembled army had won the day against a battle-hardened and numerically superior British force. Americans took great pride in the victory and for decades celebrated January 8 as a national holiday, just like the Fourth of July.

Visit the Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery and learn about its history, the destructive impact of Hurricane Katrina, and the preservation and rebuilding of this historic site. This unit of Jean Lafitte National
Historical Park and Preserve received a water surge that reached 4 to 6 feet from Hurricane Katrina. Parts of the site remained under water almost 2 weeks creating damage to historic structures and stately trees. This
field trip will begin at the new Visitor Center opened in January 2011. Along with new exhibits the center has two videos, computer interactive stations, tactile exhibits, and a sales area. A Monument resembling a smaller version of the Washington Monument sits beside the Visitor Center and will be open for participants.  A Ranger guided tour of the battlefield will be provided which will cover the history of the battle for New Orleans and how the successful win of this battle affected our young nation in 1815. A brief tour will be given of the Malus-Beauregard House, a Greek revival home, built after the battle near the American rampart.

The tour will then move the National Cemetery which was established to receive Union Troops of the Civil War who died in Louisiana. In later years the cemetery served as a final resting place for veterans of all major U.S. wars from the War of 1812 to Vietnam. The cemetery’s historic structures and landscaping received the most damage from the hurricane. Restoration and preservation methods will be discussed during the tour.

The trip will depart the hotel Wednesday afternoon at 1:30 PM and return to the hotel by 6:00PM. Travel time to and from Chalmette is approximately 35 minutes each way.  Participants should expect to walk ½ mile around the site on level hard-surfaced trails. Dress appropriately for the weather and for being outside that day.



The Unique Culture of New Orleans' African-American Communities: The Backstreet Cultural Museum

Led by the Backstreet Cultural Museum


Backstreet Cultural MuseumBackstreet Cultural MuseumBackstreet Cultural Museum

Depart hotel: 1:45pm

Arrive back at hotel: 4:00pm or later, depending on your own plans

Gear you'll need: Good walking shoes; rainwear or umbrella, or sun hat, as appropriate to the weather that day; water bottle; snacks.

Cost: $8 entrance fee paid by you at the museum, plus cost of public transport (if you choose not to walk).

The Backstreet Museum’s mission is to present and preserve the unique cultural traditions of New Orleans’ African American society, including Mardi Gras Indians, jazz funerals, and Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs. Through its programs and exhibitions of artifacts, memorabilia, photos, and videos, the museum endeavors to protect these treasures of the community. The Backstreet Cultural Museum is the only museum dedicated to these rich folk-life and musical traditions. The Museum’s goal is to promote a deeper and more widespread understanding of the New Orleans African-American heritage through exhibits and presentations of the art and music surrounding the celebration of these traditions.

The Museum is housed in a creole cottage in the heart of a New Orleans neighborhood known as the “Treme.” The Museum and the Treme are cemented in history by a cultural legacy. The Backstreet Cultural Museum is perfectly at home in its surroundings and serves as a focal point of the Treme and the cultural community it represents. The Treme, located directly adjacent to the French Quarter, has been and continues to be a vibrant enclave of musicians and artists in New Orleans.

The tour will gather in the Sheraton lobby at 1:30pm and then depart at 1:45 pm as a group, proceeding via either public transportation or else on foot (your choice) to the museum where the guides will answer any questions you might have.  Participants can stay as long as they like at the museum; we are advised that people can "do" the exhibits in about 1 hour.

Instructions for using public transport, and walking directions, will be provided, but there will be no tour leader accompanying the group.  It is about 1.3 miles to the museum — a 25-minute walk.  The Museum is located at 1161 St. Claude Street; phone is 504-522-4806.

You pay no money to the GWS to participate in this tour — you'll pay the entrance fee individually at the door — but please sign up in advance on the registration form, as the museum has requested advance notice of the number of people who will be coming.




All-day Field Trips, Friday, March 18

Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge and Bayou Lacombe Centre, Lacombe, LA

POSTED FEBRUARY 24, 2011: Several people with paid reservations for this trip have had to cancel and would like to sell their tickets. Both canoe and pontoon boat options are available.  Please email if you would like to be put in touch with them.

Led By U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service / Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge

Big Branch Marsh NWRBig Branch Marsh NWR

Depart hotel: 8:00am

Arrive back at hotel: 5:00pm

Gear you'll need: Outdoor activewear/rainwear, water-resistent boots/outdoor shoes, bug repellent, water bottle, snacks.  Box lunch provided.  For people selecting the afternoon canoe trip, all canoeing gear will be provided.

Maximum no. of people: 44.

Cost: TBA (includes box lunch).

This tour will depart by motor coach at 8:00am sharp for the hour-long trip to the refuge.  Morning activities will take place at the headquarters of Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges, known as Bayou Lacombe Centre.

This beautiful 110-acre tract along Bayou Lacombe has a colorful history. In the early 1930’s Judge Wayne G. Borah, the youngest federal judge in the country at the time, built a country residence here on the (at the time) remote northshore of Lake Pontchartrain. He and his family did extensive landscaping, laying the foundations of what later became known as “Bayou Gardens." The home and gardens were acquired in 1945 by former Louisiana Governor Richard Leche, who settled in with his family and continued the cultivation of Bayou Gardens. In time the gardens became a tourist attraction, drawing visitors to admire the huge variety of camellias and other flowering trees and shrubs. Camellia cultivars were also offered for sale in the Gardens' nursery. In 1956 the property was purchased by the Redemptorist religious order for a new seminary site, which began operating in 1960 in newly built structures located toward the rear of the property. 

Though the seminary closed in 1980, members of the Redemptorists continued to live at the site through 1997, holding religious retreats and other programs.  The land and buildings were acquired for the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 1997 by the Conservation Fund as the new home of Southeast Louisiana Refuges.  In addition to serving as refuge headquarters, special events and programs for the public are held here throughout the year. One of the most popular is the annual Wild Things festival in October in celebration of National Wildlife Refuge Week, which attracted over 4,000 guests in 2010. The Friends of Louisiana Wildlife Refuges has spearheaded the restoration of the grounds and gardens from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

9 am - 9:30 - Greeting/orientation in Conservation Room - Project Leader Ken Litzenberger

9:30 - 11:00 - visitor center and Gardens and grounds tours (camellias will be in bloom).  Total walk: about 1 mile.

11:00 - 11:30 - Friends and volunteers overview in Conservation Room

11:30 - 12:30 - lunch  - we have the option of eating indoors in the Conservation Room or at picnic tables outside, weather permitting

12:30 - 3:30 - Afternoon Options

1.        Paddling Through Time: People & Louisiana’s Wetlands — Canoe Excursion

This program allows individuals to experience the excitement of canoeing southeast Louisiana’s scenic Cane Bayou, while learning how humans have interacted with and changed the land over time. Cane Bayou forms the boundary between Big Branch Marsh NWR and Fontainebleau State Park, and along the way the habitat will transition from mixed forest to swamp, marsh, and finally the shallow waters of Lake Pontchartrain. Interested individuals should be prepared to paddle for 2-3 hours as there is no current, and occasionally we will paddle into the wind. We will travel out to the lake and back with many stops to discuss the natural and cultural history of the area.  Max. 22 for this outing.

2.        Forest and Marsh: Boy Scout Road and Bayou Lacombe, Van and Pontoon Boat Tour

This trip combines a van tour of the pine savannah habitat of Boy Scout Road with a pontoon boat exploration of Bayou Lacombe and its surrounding marshes. The forest is home to endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers and is managed thru a prescribed fire program to enhance their habitat. A boardwalk nature trail and marsh overlook tower are highlights of this area. The adjacent marshes of the refuge are prime waterfowl habitat, and have undergone restoration recently through pumping of sediment from the bed of Lake Pontchartrain into expanding ponds within the marsh, followed by planting of marsh grasses. Max. 22 for this outing. This group will divide into two equal, smaller groups and switch off halfway thru from van to boat.  


Acadian Culture Center and National Wetlands Research Center, Lafayette, LA

Led by National Park Service / Jean Lafitte National Historical Park (Acadian Culture Center) & by U.S. Geological Survey (National Wetlands Research Center)

Acadian Culture CenterNational Wetlands Research Center

Depart hotel: 8:00am

Arrive back at hotel: 6:30pm

Gear you'll need: Comfortable walking shoes; rainwear or umbrella, or sun hat, as appropriate to the weather that day (most activities will be inside, however); water bottle; snacks.  Lunch will be on your own at the La Cuisine de Maman restaurant (Cajun & Creole food) in the Vermilionville Folklife Park, a short walk from the Acadian Culture Center.

Maximum no. of people: 44.

Cost: $50 (does not include cost of lunch; see above)

This tour will depart by motor coach at 8:00am sharp for the 2.5-hour-long trip to Lafayette. 

The Acadian Cultural Center in Lafayette tells stories of the origins, migration, settlement, and contemporary culture of the Acadians (Cajuns) and other area groups. Ranger programs, films, exhibits, and events share a variety of local traditions including music, story-telling, dance, and food.

The National Wetlands Research Center is a source and clearinghouse of science information about wetlands in the United States and the world. Staff members perform original scientific research and develop research results into literature and technological tools.  Center research includes a broad array of projects on wetland ecology, values, management, restoration and creation, plus research on the ecology of a wide variety of plant and animal species and communities that are found in wetlands.

The tour will depart the hotel at 8:00 AM and ride via bus to the town of Lafayette, Louisiana, in the heart of Cajun Country. The bus will arrive around 10:30 AM at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve's

Acadian Cultural Center.  The center has exhibits that depict the story of the Acadians who settled the prairies, bayous, and marshes of south Louisiana, as a result of the 1755, Le Grand Dérangement from Acadie, or Nova Scotia.  The evolution from Acadian to Cajun would transpire as the Acadians settled among the other cultural groups in the area.  The influences that would help develop Cajun culture can be seen today in the music, family customs, and food of the region.  A 50-minute film about the deportation, migration, and settlement of the Acadians will be shown on the bus trip out from New Orleans.  Upon arrival at the Acadian Cultural center, a park ranger will lead a brief tour/walk through the exhibit discussing current local traditions.

Along with viewing the exhibits, a program on the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana will be presented.  The Chitimacha are the only tribe in Louisiana to currently reside on ancestral homeland and their history, upon first encounter, was that of a mighty nation.  By the early 1700s, disease, slave raids, and Iberville's declaration to rid the area of Chitimacha, would take its toll on the tribe.  A small population survived and for the next 200 years, they would struggle to protect and maintain their homelands and culture, and seemingly lose their language.  The Chitimacha presentation will include history of the tribe and what they are doing today to preserve tribal customs, skills, and language.  Presenters will include Chitimacha Tribal Chairman and Chitimacha basketweaver, John Darden, Chitimacha Cultural Department Director, Kimberly Walden, and Park Ranger, Jodie Bacque, all of whom are Chitimacha.

At 12:30pm the group will walk (5 minutes) next door to have lunch on your own at the La Cuisine de Maman restaurant (Cajun & Creole food) in the Vermilionville Folklife Park.

At 1:30pm we will reboard the bus for the short (10-minute) to drive the the National Wetlands Research Center and the afternoon activities of the trip.  At the NWRC, we will view presentations from the Center's staff about wetlands  research being conducted at the Center, as well as about issues related to Louisiana's rapidly vanishing coastal wetlands. Attendees will visit the Center's facilities, including the mapping lab and greenhouses, to learn  about how the USGS National Wetlands Research Center is providing  unbiased, timely, and relevant data for resource and emergency managers, decision-makers and planners who are designing the future of our Nation's wetlands.

The bus will depart the NWRC at 4:00pm for the return trip to New Orleans, arriving back at the Sheraton at approxmately 6:30pm.