Camping Near Bogs, Bayous, and Sloughs

Let’s take a few minutes and talk about camping near bogs, bayous, and sloughs.  From the early 1980s until the late 1990s, I primarily camped around the bogs, bayous and sloughs in Southeast Texas.

Sometimes my buddies and I would hike to the camp location, sometimes we would take a boat.  We had several places we would go camping.  Most of them either near a marsh, or along a bayou and a bog.

Mud bog, a perfect place for snakes

There was one place in particular we visited on a semi-regular basis. The camp site was on a cut off the main bayou and near a bog.   While camping there, we were just a dozen feet from the waters edge.

It was not uncommon to step off the boat, walk ten feet, and see a Cottonmouth Water Moccasin.  One time, I walked right up on a cottonmouth and it struck at my boot.  It was a warning strike and it did not bite.  Just ten feet from that water moccasin was another one.

For close to two decades, I had somewhat regular run-ins with the Cottonmouth Water Moccasin and various other snakes.

I wish I had taken more pictures in the 1980s and 1990s of my camping trips, but alas I did not.

Camping Near Bogs, Bayous, and Sloughs

Boat ride down a Southeast Texas Bayou

When camping near a bog or slough, one of the first things my buddies and I did was scout the area.  We would look for snakes, a low areas which were holding water.  We would also look for frogs.  Why frogs?  What eats frogs?  Snakes do.

If the camp site is near a bog, bayou, or slough, and there are lots of frogs, chances are there will be snakes in the area.  This is a typical predator-prey relationship. Predators go wherever the prey is at.  In this case, the prey are frogs, and the predators are snakes.

Drawing from my decades of experience, if I had to pick the absolute worst place to camp, it has to be near a mud bog with just a few inches of water.

If frogs go into deep water, they get ate by fish.  So it is safer to stay on the mud flats, and hope a snake does not come along.

Besides the Cottonmouth Water Moccasin, it would not be unusual to run into a harmless Water Snake (Genus Nerodia).  The Water Snake is non-venomous and poses no real threat to humans.  However, a bite from a Water Snake can inject bacteria under the skin, thus causing an infection.

Looking For Snakes

Slough in Southeast Texas

When setting up a campsite, just because someone does not see a snake in the area does not mean there are no snakes around.  Chances are the cottonmouth is in a hole, or under some brush. After night falls they will come out and start looking for food.

Besides the cottonmouth, campers may run into the rat snake, aka chicken snake. These usually live in holes in the side of a tree, somewhere up high.

While on a camping trip a few years ago I had a hammock set up, was laying in the hammock, looked up, and there was a rat snake (chicken snake) working its way through the tree limbs.  Why was it in the trees?  It was probably looking for a birds nest.  Staying in the trees also keeps the rat snake away from other snake species, such as the king snake, and the cottonmouth.

While looking for a camping spot, look up into the trees and look for holes in the side of trees.  Rat snakes will hide in hollow places in tree trunks.

Final Thoughts

Running into a snake can be a stressful situation.  This can be especially true when the person is out of their usual habitat, off in the woods and looking for a camping spot.

There were times when my buddies and I got out of the boat, walked 20 feet, and ran into two Cottonmouth Water Moccasins. There were a number of places we decided not to camp simply because there were too many snakes.

For the most part, but not always, snakes like to hunt in water that is standing still.  This means they are not swept away, and they have to put forth less effort to cross the water.   This makes bogs, bayous and sloughs perfect for snakes on the prowl.

Usually, I will not camp near mud bogs.  If I walk up and see frogs jumping in the water of a bog, I keep going.