Finding serenity with a paddle in Acadiana
Even though he grew up in Torrance, California, for Cory Werk, his roots were always in Cajun Country. His mother and her family hailed from south Louisiana, and Werk spent many summers visiting Baton Rouge and Breaux Bridge.
When Werk’s mother purchased land along Bayou Teche, he wanted to jump right in—pun intended. After he and his father participated in the annual Tour de Teche bayou race—a 135-mile, three-day race held in the fall—they contemplated opening their own kayak outfitter. They’d participated in their own boats because there wasn’t an outfitter on the Teche at the time.
“So the following summer we moved out here and started the business,” Werk said.
Doors to the Bayou Teche Experience opened a year ago and “business has been phenomenal,” Werk said.
Bayou Teche Experience is located in the heart of downtown Breaux Bridge on East Bridge Street, right on the bayou and across from the city’s tourism office. Werk also purchased two buildings to renovate along Bridge Street, the old Teche Liquors, which locals referred to as “Lloyds” in its day, and the accompanying ice house, the latter of which Werk plans to have completed by mid-March as a new office and warehouse for the boats.
Werk shuttles people up and down the bayou, depending on the customers’ tastes and experience, and offers Tribe tandem kayak rentals that are safe, stable and self-bailing. “There’s no way you’re going to sink these boats,” he said.
Most people ask for the Cecilia to Breaux Bridge trip, which is about 2 1/2 hours. Werk shuttles people and their kayaks to the Cecilia put-in spot above Interstate 10 and then they paddle back to their cars in Breaux Bridge. Smaller trips can be arranged for about 1 1/2 hours, with longer trips, such as the downstream Breaux Bridge to St. Martinville, about 4 1/2 hours, Werk said.
The upper Teche consists of a narrower stream with lots of overhanging trees and shade, perfect for summertime paddles. “There’s no motors, no noise, just you and nature,” Werk explained. “It’s a very serene way of exploring Acadiana.” The lower Teche is wider, has more boat traffic but is sunnier, Werk said.
In addition, Werk offers kayak service to nearby Lake Martin, which offers a placid lake and surrounding wetlands and one of the largest bird rookeries in America. “It’s a quiet place to paddle,” he said.
Werk will cater to all needs and custom the paddle experience. The business is open daily, dawn to dusk.
The beauty of a paddle along Bayou Teche—in addition to its tranquil waters, of course—is the numerous bed and breakfasts, restaurants and music venues such as La Poussière and Pont Breaux’s along the route. Paddlers can enjoy the entire length of the bayou and stay at bed and breakfasts at regular intervals, plus enjoy authentic Cajun food and music.
“From Port Barre to New Iberia, everywhere on the route people can pull up on a boat and sleep there and receive all the creative comforts,” Werk said, adding there are exit points all along the bayou.
He’s currently working on developing packages that include accommodations and other tourism-related offerings. Werk is also teaming up with Café des Amis in Breaux Bridge to offer a paddle that coincides with their popular zydeco brunch. Paddlers will arrive at the Bayou Teche Experience around 7 am, Werk will shuttle them upstream and once they arrive back in Breaux Bridge they will enjoy brunch at Café des Amis.
“A lot of my business model is discovering what people want to do,” he explained.
Werk emphasized that anyone can kayak and his brand of kayaks are more stable than canoes. He adds that paddling is one of the best exercises because it’s low impact and uses the body core.
“Anyone can do it,” he said. “Whether you’re seven years old or seventy, you can kayak.”
Bayou Teche Experience 317 E. Bridge Street Breaux Bridge, La. (337) 366-0337 BayouTecheExperience.com