Big turtle at Zam's.

Zam's Swamp Tours

Field review by the editors.

Thibodaux, Louisiana

The town of Kraemer is so small, it had to buy a used drawbridge when its old one collapsed into the Lac des Allemands bayou. This fascinating fact is one of many that you'll learn when you take Zam's Bayou Swamp Tour, one of the better of the dozen-or-so swamp excursions that encircle New Orleans.

Kraemer is out in the middle of nowhere and Zam's is its principal industry. The rickety signs lining Highway 307 trumpet Zam's tours, but most of its money is made wholesaling alligator skulls -- 10,000 last year -- which are then resold by nearly every gift shop in New Orleans. What doesn't go to the big city ends up in Zam's gift shop, filling the walls floor-to-ceiling and stacked on every available flat surface. Even the fences that surround Zam's property are studded with the toothy skulls, drying in the delta sun.

Mr. Zam is of undetermined age and yearns to retire, so he's turned the tour side of the business over his son, "Wild Bill" Tregle. Wild Bill freely admits that he doesn't want this responsibility, but he needs the money to pay for his Corvette, his beer, and his party-hearty lifestyle with his motorcycle gang buddies. Capt. Wild Bill is in his mid-forties but, he reflects, he's in no hurry to grow up.

Since you'll probably be the only person on the tour, Wild Bill feels free to ignore nature and talks instead about his drinking, his run-ins with the police, and his quirky bayou neighbors. This, as it turns out, makes for an entirely satisfactory swamp tour, as there is otherwise very little to spark conversation out here besides basking turtles and an occasional undulating water snake.

"See that shack over there?" Capt. Wild Bill asks, pointing to a shanty half-hidden in the cypress. "No running water. The woman who lives there is ninety-five and she has to shower out of a bucket."

"Why doesn't someone connect her to a water main?"

"You don't want to help that lady. She's a WITCH!"

Wild Bill's tours last an hour, but budget some extra time to tour Zam's "zoo" (where every exhibit ends up in the processing plant) and Edwina's Cookin' Cajun Cafe (whose dishes specialize in skull-less alligators).

To cap off your visit, tip Wild Bill enough to buy a six-pack and he'll drag gators and loggerheads out of their display pits and pose for novelty snapshots. "This turtle is 126 years old and can BITE YOUR LEG OFF!"

Zam's Swamp Tours

Address:
36 Kraemer Bayou Rd, Thibodaux, LA
Directions:
US Hwy 90 southwest from New Orleans about 20 miles, then north on Hwy 307 about ten miles. Cross the drawbridge, and hang a quick right.
Hours:
Tours daily at 11:30, 1:30, 3:30. (Call to verify)
Phone:
985-633-7881
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In the region:
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November 18, 2018

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