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Morganza Floodway Displaces People, Wildlife

Shannon and I took a road trip yesterday, starting in Lafayette, taking the Breaux Bridge Highway to Breaux Bridge, and then the Grand Point Highway to Henderson.

There’s always been something about the Henderson area that calms me.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m  not normally a high-strung, trigger-happy kind of guy, but I am always on the go.   Being in the Basin almost makes me want to relax, and there aren’t many places that can do that for me.

Picture of the Atchafalaya Basin
Courtesy of John Falcon

The first thing that we noticed on our trip was the number of vehicles on the Henderson Highway:  more traffic than normal for a Sunday.  Groups of cars would be huddled together on the side of the road every few blocks, some people just visiting, others making sure that their belongings,  strapped to trailers, pick-up trucks, and even to the tops of vehicles,  were secured.

At McGee’s Landing, trucks with boat trailers were parked along the levee, awaiting the return of their owners, with the boats filled with their belongings from ‘the camp’, no doubt.

Picture of Houseboats in Henderson, Louisiana
Mario Tama, Getty Images

We headed North along the levee, noticing several places where grass was growing through the water, indicating that the water hasn’t been there long.  By the time we got near the Three Mile Lake area (near the Bayou Courtableau Control Structure, still South of Hwy 190), the vehicles lining Landing Lane and Shady Camp Road were stuffed to the windows with housewares, trailers were loaded down with furniture, BBQ grills, lawn maintenance equipment, dog kennels and televisions.  Cars were driving slowly along Spillway Road near the camps/houses, trying to keep the dust at a minimum.

We took Spillway Road  to Highway 190, and then drove across the Morganza Spillway Bridge to Highway 81 (strange enough, we didn’t notice ANY water IN the Morganza Spillway; did we miss it?).

We went North again, this time via Highway 81 from Lottie, through Fordoche, all the way to Morganza.  I am certain that, normally, there is some traffic on Highway 1 through Morganza, but yesterday, it was almost bumper-to-bumper.  I would guess, more than likely, it was mostly people like us, trying to get a glimpse of the Morganza Spillway in action, history in the making.

As we got to Highway 1, when we looked to the left, towards the spillway.  You could see a cloud of mist coming from the open spillway bays  hovering over the highway, almost to ‘mark the spot’ for the sight-seers.

As we waited to turn on to Highway 1, most of the traffic we waited on was motorcycle traffic.  I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that we saw 75 – 100 motorcycles yesterday in the Morganza area (most of the ‘passengers’ had cell phone or digital camera in hand).

Vehicles crossing the spillway featured people hanging out of sun roofs or out of the windows, taking pictures or video of BOTH sides of the spillway.  Even some of the drivers had a camera in hand, marveling at the site of the Mississippi River upholding it’s nick-name.

Photo of Morganza Spillway
Courtesy of John Falcon

The rush of water wasn’t deafening, but is sure was loud.  Large fish could be seen jumping from the torrent of water, obviously not accustomed to the commotion.

After we left Morganza, we paid a visit to Satterfield’s (at False River) for a late lunch.  I recommend the Seafood Angel Hair Pasta (and the fried pickles are nothing short of addictive).

Photo of Shannon at Satterfield's
Courtesy of John Falcon

The drive back to Lafayette afforded me time to think about ‘the big picture’ of what was taking place: the images of the rising water in the Atchafalaya Basin, of the water rushing in through the Morganza structure, of the fish jumping, of the animals fleeing the new water, of people being displaced.

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All of it made me wonder:  If the levees hold, will the people of Baton Rouge and New Orleans be grateful for the sacrifices of those who live/lived in “harm’s way”?  Surely, most people in New Orleans have a clue as to what the people in this area are having to endure (who could forget Katrina??).

Photo of Sign in Butte La Rose
Scott Olson, Getty Images

The optimist in me thinks “at least the residents of the Atchafalaya Basin  enough forewarning to make arrangements to save their possessions”.  But the realist in me has a heartache for those being displaced.  Let’s hope that it is short-lived, so that we can get back to enjoying our Sportman’s Paradise.

Picture of Sunset at the Atchafalaya Basin
Courtesy of John Falcon

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