Bayou Teche, Louisiana
This is one canoe adventure where you may spend as much time on land as in the water. Not to say that the view from the canoe isn't stunning. Bayou Teche (a bayou is a slow-moving stream) meanders 130 miles (48 kilometers) through Southwest Louisiana, much of it in the Atchafalaya Basin. The basin is the largest inland swamp in North America and it possesses the eerie beauty typical of any great swamp: Live oak trees drip with Spanish moss. Cypress trees with gnarled "knees," part of the root system, rise from the water. Wildlife abounds. You might see egrets, bobcats, otters and alligators.
The Teche was also the landing point of the Cajun people. Cajuns are descendents of French Canadians who were driven from Nova Scotia by the English in 1755. They settled on the prairies and bayous, blending into an eclectic mix with European, African-American and Native American neighbors. Living off the land, isolated from mainstream America, they developed one of the most distinct cultures in the country. Tie up at any small town along the Teche (many have a public boat launch) and you'll find their traditions alive and well. In a café, for example, you may hear Cajun French as well as English being spoken. Your meal will likely be local fare -- from the pork, rice and peppers in the jambalaya, to the sugar and sweet potatoes in the sweet potato pie.
Although it's one of our safest adventures, touring the Teche requires one special precaution: lots of bug spray. In Louisiana, as the joke goes, the mosquito is the state dog.