The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Appendix

Rivergator Appendix 9

John’s Log - Atchafalaya River Expedition

March 16 - 23, 2015

(by John Ruskey)

Monday, March 16th, Shreve’s Bar, Mississippi River 45.7 and rising RRG.  Crescent old moon rising over Angola, spring peepers peeping in the flooding forests, gentle waves lapping the top end of Shreve’s Bar, the river at 45.7 on the Red River Gage and rising a foot a day.  The throb and de-acceleration of the Angola Ferry engines can be heard across the channel as it maneuvers out of dock to cross over to the pen with the days fresh force of guards.  The Grasshopper Canoe balanced perfectly below the cinder darkside of the moon and the intensely glowing crescent side.  Its only the waning moon, a thin sliver maybe 5% of the whole, and yet you can see all close-up features of Shreve’s Bar, and it makes a distinct silvery rippling reflection dancing across Shreve’s Back Channel, and strikes a sharp line down the gunwales and exposes the grainy texture of the sandy shoreline repeatedly wetted by the never-ending tongue-waves of water licking and lapping playfully.  Sagittarius crossing the still leafless willows led by the elegant double spiral of Scorpius, and long meandering trail of stars, many couplets, connecting to Ursa Major rotating endlessly around the heaven’s pole star as sure as the arms of grandfather’s clock.  Leo setting over the Atchafalaya Old River Lock leading us into the watery adventure soon to come.  The ferry crossed over again and makes landing on Turnbull’s Island.  A mist flowing over and off the water, an airborne river.  I feel like we are floating in the current, a special time, breathing deeply with the lungs of the earth.

 

Tuesday, March 17, Porcupine Point (opposite Cypress Point), Atchafalaya River 30 feet and rising on the Simmesport Gage.  I set up my tent for the bugs.  I slept in the open air the night before on Shreve’s Bar.  I am on a red-cliff cutbank with a five foot drop into the river.  Some of it is collapsing, but the red sand/mud layering seems to be more stable than the black/grey/sand layering of the Mississippi, a steady water roaring white noise feature created by an offshore buoy fills the ambient sonic environment completely overpowering all other sound sources including sporadic highway traffic (over the levee), bird’s songs, and the chorus of frogs behind camp in the slough.  The slough in the middle of our camp is filling up faster and faster as the river rises.  The thinnest sliver of moon is visible pre-dawn, the last night of the old moon, the 28-day cycle of the new, old and none, the never-ending circle of birth and death and rebirth, the story of life forever revolving over our heads and reminding those who pause, look, and take a moment to reflect in the beautiful recurring pattern of it all and our own lonely lives exemplified in the heavens.  Turbulent waters roaring underneath the Simmesport Railroad Swing Bridge, a large dune of sand bank left below, the only sand seen in the first fifteen miles of the Atchafalaya.  Gail, first awake, then David, River, Brax, Boyce, Rory, Mike Beck.  The cardinals, red-winged blackbirds and others singing the good morning song, everywhere vitality, beauty, and arresting patterning is seen.  Man’s bankside works are ant-like busy and ugly and survivalist.  Good intentions turn too easily into mean lives.  Maybe it’s only because I am one of their kind so I feel it too.  But almost everywhere man’s bankside trash heaps bother my aesthetics.  And every time nature’s expressions are full of beauty and elegance.  Even the ragged weedy places with wind-ravaged trees falling into the river and getting tumbled roots, broken branches, mud, sand and grass rotating and tossed and piled into chaotic piles.  Even there beauty is seen and felt there.  Dewberries thick along the Atchafalaya, a stretch of Chinaberries, stand of big trees, but their upper section is mostly cut, broken over, or recovering.  It’s the same bottomland hardwood forests as seen on the Mississippi, but red mud instead of black, and more people living close by.  Similar to the Mississippi above Minneapolis: people living close to the land, and part of it, not passers by.

 

Wed, March 18, Owl Hoot Point.  Atchafalaya River 31 feet and rising on the Simmesport Gage.  I was in the middle of brewing a fresh pot of Community Coffee when a loud expressive hooting caused me to jump, so close I thought Brax had snuck up to surprise me.  But as it kept calling I realized it was a great horned owl in a nearby tree.  When Mike Beck awoke he called it “lagniappe” because the owl gave 9 hoots instead of the usual 8, i.e. “a little something extra...”  Now both Mike and the owl are gone, the owl haunting the bottomlands elsewhere and Mike muttering “there’s nothing going on here I might as well go back to sleep!”   Roosters, dogs and highway sounds on the opposite side of the river;  owls, spring peepers, crickets and cows on ours.  The “lived-in wilderness,” it reminds me of the Chihuahua/Sinaloa, where the Tarahumara live in harmony with the deep canyons of the Sierra Madre.  Like the Appalachicola we have fog every morning, and have been pushing off several hours after sunrise, around 10am.  Low layers of fog still lingering in treed harbors, the air so calm and the temperature gradient so keenly defined.  Long undulating lines of fog reaching everywhere,  turning our campsites into special places on the edges of two rivers, one in the water, one in the sky.

 

Six deltaic lobes the Mississippi has created in the last 7,000 years in this interglacial age of the Holocene.  Now the Atchafalaya flows strong as the most ready to capture the whole, a 1000-year process now extended by the gates of the control structures.  25% of the Mississippi and 30% of the combined Red/Mississippi.  I dip the big coffeepot (our central water heater) over the edge of the canoe into the river and pull out a potfull of reddish/orangish fluid, the blood of the Comanche Country Great Plains/Ozarks/Ouchitas and furthest reaches high plains of New Mexico where the Cimarron meanders in a tightly looping line like the plate fissures of the skull.  More red earth country, the blood of the Red mixed with the black/green blood of the rest of the drainage, the whole being bubbled in my big pot (bought from the Army Navy store on the banks of the Mizzou in Wolf Point Montana) and then made to brew chicory coffee, ginger tea, river, spaghetti noodles, and then to rinse our faces, cleanse our hands, wash our dishes, and then be tossed to the side to drain into the leaves and disappear into the soil, where it filters through the fine sediment enriched with bacteria and microbes and a fine mixture of minerals, and then re-emerges lower down the bank refreshed and ready to caress our paddle strokes.

 

Thursday, March 19, 2015, Blue Heron Point.  Krotz Springs Gage 20.31.  Nightfall found us on top of a thin sliver of willow-topped sandy ridge with some alders, some sumac and poison ivy, also purple vetch; but no cockleburrs here.  The frogs a raucous roar well into the night, until after midnight, finally subsiding in their pulse excitement long after I had enjoyed mine, my sleep broken by the awful on-and-off acceleration and de-acceleration of some adrenaline-overdosed enthusiast playing in his airboat.  But the frogs and toads seem to be unperturbed by the noisy disturbance.  We have some peepers, some leopard toads, and a bright green lizard on the willow behind the kitchen.  Some barred and great horned owls on the opposite shore towards Butte La Rose.  Not far off Barb and Linda are enjoying their houseboat retreat on Henderson Lake.  I can feel their bear spirit through the woods.  Now first light in coming.  The peepers are still peeping.  I can hear the songs of distant songbirds, and the drip-drop of fog drops gathering on freshly emerged willow leaves and falling to the earth and plopping in the muddy Atchafalaya.  Three beaver slide by in the mist, softly grunting to each other in throaty gutterals.  Two herons pass overhead while fish tails sploshings are heard in the backwaters.  Mosquito hawks hovering overhead along with Caddis flies.

 

Today we exit the main channel and enter the great corpulescent body of the lungs of Southern Louisiana, buoyed an arteries bearing life-generating nutrients to roots, fish, fungi and phytoplankton, while washing away the wastes from the same.  We are riding the spring pulse, surfing the 100 mile-long wave off the big mother Mississippi and down her biggest distributary, bigger even than the Southwest Pass, being propelled along southward into the biggest river swamp in North America along the rising waters of her biggest river.  Yesterday we pushed off from Owl Hoot Point with increasing highway roar (Melville to Krotz Springs) in a foggy mist laid by webby blankets over the cold river, tropical air layering with the cold air hovering over temperate snow melt and flowing downstream over the jubilantly rolling debris-filled river around several bends and then through Krotz Springs.  Some burly Cajuns were scooping shad out of the deep muddy waters using a large hoop net with a long handle.  They were tied up to some trees in a strategic place where the water concentrates and is propelled outwards and downwards.  The shad prefer this type of fast water environment.  They swim upstream into the strong currents and snatch up smaller fish.  The Cajuns take advantage of this habit.  They create an additional acceleration of water speed by building an angled wall out of plywood along the tree’s edge, which pushes the water off the shore and makes an swirling eddy place below.  Here they park their boats, in the eddy at the ending edge of the plywood wall, and then stand up and swish their nets downstream with the water flow in a cyclical pattern, like a waterwheel.  The poor unsuspecting shad get caught swimming upstream by the downstream moving net, and are collected by the crafty Cajuns.

 

We had a mid channel lunch floating along with Dean Wilson, his wife Cara, son Erasmus, and 7 y/o Shepherd Balak.  The loving keepers of the Atchafalaya Basin, the river’s advocate, the swamp’s best friend, the salt of the earth, the joy of the pride, the children of God, the good people in the center of life’s circle and collection of creatures.

 

Friday, March 20, 2015, Hog/Eagle Island.   Krotz Springs Gage:  20.92

Morgan City Gage:  4.47  We found a quiet camp in some hardwoods at the base of Hog Island/Eagle Island, a high ground amidst the ever-sinking swamp lands around us which seem to be gradually descending lower and lower as we approach our final destination, the Gulf of Mexico.  Sporadic Frog calls from around our camp, bordered by Keelboat Pass on one side and Flat Lake Pass on the other.  The island comes to a  point with dry ground in between.  The river maybe three feet lower than forest level, which means the south end of Hog Island goes under around 25KG.  Its hard to predict river levels and their effects now that we are below the levees.  In the open basin the water has exponentially more land to spread out in, so that a one foot rise at Krotz Springs will be greatly diminished, and might convert to a 3 inch rise down here where there are so many passes to flow down, and so many bayous and swamps to get lost in, and marshy islands to be soaked into.  A chorus of peepers rings from across the Pass, and a cacophony of amphibians somewhere upstream in the extensive swamps we paddled through yesterday.  I hear a beaver chewing through a stick.  Some strange bird calls.  Some sporadic honks from an unknown aviator flying down one pass, past our point, and then up the other pass.

 

Following suggestions from Dean Wilson the Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, we paddled through roiling muddy forested channels all day yesterday, first down Jake’s Bayou, and then Bloody Bayou, which dead-ends at Bayou Sorrell.  We turned left down Bayou Sorrell and then forked right (south) on Indian Bayou.  When that ended we took a right on Florida Canal, the water slowing, the land dropping away into extensive swamps on either side.  We paddled through a dogleg connector to reach Bee Bayou where we had to paddle upstream to to reach Flat Lake Pass.  (Note: This is not the Flat Lake near Morgan City, but another one).  We followed Flat Lake Pass with renewed current (coming from a vigorous connection off the main river) to where it split north and south around Hog/Eagle Island.  Hog/Eagle Island sits at the top of East Grand Lake and is a remnant high ground leftover from a former river channel which flowed here.  At one time they were two distinct islands on the Atchafalaya River, Hog Island upstream of  Eagle Island.  Now they are joined as one, and whatever river banks and channels separated them, they are now gone and the two islands are joined as one whole.  Hog/Eagle Island is topped with sycamores, oaks, ashes, elms, maples and cottonwoods, same as any of the taller islands we have been seeing upstream of here, and same as any of the bottomland hardwood forests on the mother Mississippi River.  The difference here is a thin buffer of marshes made of cat-tails, hyacinth and watercress along the shore, with river birch and willows reaching out, and some invasive species like tallow and privet.

 

Landing was difficult to make on Hog/Eagle Island, due to submerged cypress trees and gnarly roots reaching out from shore.  We could only get so close and then we had to use a fallen tree as a bridge and ferry our gear to our chosen camp.  But the effort was worth it.  Behind our camp is a beautiful cypress forest in a low lands, the trees growing serenely with buttressing trunks and cypress knees.  Shoots of a spiky brilliant green grass punctuates the muddy bottoms here.  We’ve seen tree frogs, Carolina lizards and some gators.  We heard nutria crying in the swamps last night, and the eastern fox squirrel in the forests during the day.  Coyotes have been silent on the Atchafalaya so far until last night when a clan  erupted into song at sunset.  We’ve been seeing anhinga amongst the crows, vultures and bald eagles.  I made my first positive identification of a  songbird yesterday, a swamp warbler, and now I’m wondering where the remainder of the mass migration is?  Still coming across the Gulf?  Hunkered down by winds and storms on the Mexican Gulf coast?  Still awaiting the right conditions to take to wing from the Yucatan?  I’ve also been wondering about the Florida panther, does it still roam the swamps?

 

Saturday, March 21, Dog Frog Island Krotz Springs Gage: 20.97 Morgan City Gage:  4.53 (written at the end of the day).  I woke up late and didn’t have time to write this morning for some reason).  We got lost in the corpuscle tendrils of the inner depths of the heart of green-ness, the vibrant green center of the Atchfalaya Basin between Bayou Sorrel and Flat Lake, Bayou Sorrel being the major distributary and Flat Lake the collection basin.  East Grand Lake was the transition.  Halfway down East Grand Lake where Big Bayou Pigeon comes in the Basin starts metamorphosing from bottomland hardwood forests into cypress/tupelo gum forests.  We sliced our way southeastward down the edge of East Grand Lake, all of cypress forests growing along its eastern edge and reaching outwards in ragged stands of crusty individuals, all with their feet in the water.  Each cypress is unique.  Some take the shape of grey wizards.  Others appear to be swirling dervishes, dancers caught in a snapshot of fluid grace and elegance.  (I have seen similar motions implied in other cypress trees; in fact I see one on the banks of the Sunflower River every morning on my way to the Quapaw Canoe Company!)  Several osprey nests have been constructed on top of these giant cypresses, one on top if an obvious safe place, a chimney-shaped cypress rising like an articulate smokestack.  This particular tree stands taller than all of the others, and the nest is a whirlpool of individual sticks at the very summit.  We actually witnessed baldy (bald eagle) and osprey in the sky in the same view at one point.  This is a rare sight, the two do not very often tolerate the presence of the other.

 

Following Dean’s instructions we jumped into a broad pipeline canal running east through some cypress trees about 1/4 mile above the bottom of the lake.  A sluggish current slowly emptied out of the lake and through the canal into a seeming dead end.  Not until we reached the dead end did we find a narrow “surprise” exit through another stand of cypress (where we found a high ground for a charming picnic spot full of leafy greens, elephant ears and yellow rockets) at the intersection of a couple of pipeline channels cut into the woods.  After lunch we continued down these pipeline channels as ways.  We snuck up on some snakes sunning themselves on the porch of a floating cabin.  They saw us, and turned their heads our way, but did did not budge an inch while we floated closer and closer.  We finally yielded the spot to the serpents and jumped into Little Bayou Long, according to Dean’s route, but were dismayed to find that it was flowing the wrong way.  Not wanting to be Omahas (and paddle upstream) we jumped into the next bayou over, and un-named blue line on our map which ran parallel to Little Bayou Long.  Even though it was only 100 yards away it was running the opposite direction!  This seemed to be a miracle.  We entered the un-named bayou, which narrowed immediately, and followed it a twisty mile.  It had vey little current, and we were a little alarmed that the water hyacinth seemed to growing thicker all around us, and had to charge through a couple of small rafts of it to follow the course.  Sure enough the channel hit a dead end in a mass of hyacinth that seemed to have no end.  Dismayed, we back-tracked a tried a perpendicular canal we had noticed, but it did the same, dead ended into a seemingly impenetrable floating raft of water hyacinth.  Not wishing to pursue the same obstacle in a second choice route, we turned tail and returned to the original blockage, breathed deep and paddled full steam ahead and dove hard into the greenery. Grasshopper voyageur canoe cut the way through slowly but surely, like a sharpened hippopotamus.  The hyacinth eventually ended and we enjoyed the feeling of the open water again.  But then we hit another bed.  This time however, we did not flinch, but paddled harder.  Same as before, this bed lasted only so long.  And so we continued this routine another mile until the bayou opened up and we knew we had finally reached Duck Lake.  Duck Lake is full of stately cypress.  It has a special feel, like a wood-lined library.  It feels like the gothic library of Louisiana, the drawing room of the gods, the board room of the swamp.  After one hundred miles of bottomland hardwood forests and twenty miles of cypress/tupelo gum forests we have finally reached the nation of the ancient tree people standing tall and proud.  We might have kept paddling, but Gail said, “isn’t that high ground?”  And sure enough it was.  And that was how we found camp “Dog Frog.”

 

Sunday, March 22, Glass Island.  Morgan City Gage:  4.67  Red winged blackbirds nesting on scrubby young willows.  The river about a mile wide here.  Sunrise, and the oil pipeline workers we passed yesterday are already at work.  The Atchafalaya splaying outwards, again, opening her legs wide to let her waters flow outwards in all directions like the branches of a willow -- forking; multiple forks, forks upon forks, endless fractal permutations made of meandering curvy lines.  No straight lines here except for where cut by a pipeline.

 

We paddled by several large cypress forests on islands downstream of Morgan City.  The first tall island is found at the mouth of the Intracoastal Waterway, mile 121.7 LBD.  Bateman Island is defined by the Atchafalaya, the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, and Bayou Scaffer (and numerous other bayous further downstream).  It is the highest wild ground around Morgan City, with good picnicking or camping up to 8 MCG )at the top end (might be places here that stay dry up to 9MCG).  A river ridge parallels the river overgrown with an inviting exotic forest of palmettos mixed with cypress, willows and hardwoods.   From its top end Bateman Island gradually descends in elevation as you continue downstream, from dry at 8 MCG to 7MCG a mile downstream, down 6 and then 5 as it round the old Avoca and Beers Islands (now assimilated into Bateman) and curves downstream southward towards the open Gulf.

 

As you continue down the Atchafalaya most cypress seem to favor the west side of the the channel (I wonder why?)  Ten miles down (at mile 130) the first big grass marshlands come into view right bank descending in Sweetbay Lake.  Two hours before sunset we happened upon a thin sliver of sand right bank descending at mile 131, a grassy shelf sitting several feet above water level with several stands of young willows.  We’re calling it Glass Island.  It looks to sit 3-4 feet above the water level, which means that it would stay dry up to 7MCG.  But watch for tidal changes.  If you make landing at low tide, you will lose some of your perceived elevation.  On the other hand if you make a high tide camp, the water shouldn’t get any higher.  Glass Island is unfortunately beset by broken beer bottles and picnic trash.  It looks like empty bottles have been set up in the sand and shattered during target practice.  I want to walk barefoot and enjoy the sand, but it makes me nervous with all of this glass strewn about everywhere.  I wear shoes and grit my teeth at the thoughtlessness.  But soon my anger is softened by the view.  The horizon from Glass Island is a rich foliage fabric of clumps of willows and marshes mixed with the waterscapes of various exit channels, the main river, and some open bays.  

 

After dark the lights of Morgan City, New Orleans and Venice glowed softly to the East, while the South and West disappeared into a lovely blue-black void supercharged with humidity.  Here in the deep darkness the stars of the Milky Way cascades across the sky to the black void of the horizon and Canopus Canapi hangs like a delicately glowing creamy yellow candlelight, as if a votary let loose on the dark face of the midnight water.    At midnight Orion appeared to be swimming north with Canis Major close behind.  And so we too now let ourselves loose upon the waters of America now reaching the waters of the world.  Our wild turbulent tumbling uncontrollably bubbling, swirling, rocking & rolling, whirlpooling, boiling, eddying, rampaging, gurgling, exploding, madcapping, ravaging, muddy river now easing into its advanced last stage in its long life.  The waters of the great circle of Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Montana, Saskatchewan, North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, New York, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia and Alabama, and everything in between gently expanding exponentially outwards.  And now molecule by molecule the big river coming to rest in a new bed, in the ultimate resting spot (but not restful), the biggest waters of the world all joined together in the final place of repose for all waters.  And that is of course the deep blue sea.  Here is the transformative resting place of everything that lived.  Here is where all particulates fall to the floor and all volatiles rise to the air.  Here is where the all-encompassing community of nature combines and recombines, where like attracts like, and the love of life leaps higher than the waves.

 

Monday, March 23, Fern Ridge.  Morgan City Gage:  4.90  We camped at the junction of an oil pipeline canal and a curvy waterway we have been following which connects the Wax Lake Delta with the Atchafalaya.  We are maybe two-thirds of the way back across the coastal wetlands to Morgan City.  Swampy marshes surround us as far as the eye can see.  There is no dry land to be found, even the solid mass where we are camped is a wet composition of tangled roots, mud and grasses just solid enough to support our weight, erect our tents, and even build a fire.  Dry land is a thing of the past.  Terra cognita is nowhere to be found.  The marsh is a rich mixture of roots, leaves, and sulfurous soil, half of this world, half of another.  Like peat moss, it exists somewhere between life and decay.  As you move around your footsteps are accompanied by lots of sucking sounds, squishing, gollumping, gollashing sounds.  And in the stillness of the pre-morning darkness those wet rubbery sounds seem to be emulated by the frogs, and are punctuated in the sighs and moans of the nutria.  The sonic atmosphere rings with wetness of the place.  Later after sunrise the swampy symphony comes to a crescendo when the squeaks, whistles and shrieks of various birds, rodents and insects add their voices.  And us... what does the guttural bubbling monotone clunking of man’s tongue-speak sound like to the natives of the swampland?  Crickets join the morning chorus of grunts, squeaks and squishing noises, like rubber rubbing against rubber.  The plaintive cries of the nutria and Mark River adding in his own grunts and moans from his tent to the choir.  A lone songbird, a cardinal, makes a burst of song and then falls silent.  More sounds resound off the muddy channel: bankside thrashings, something crackling through the bullrushes, some violent splashing, then silence.  That was ominous.  A gator thrashing a nutria?  Frogs make all kinds of sounds, some coughing, some re-running short drum beats of jumbled snatches of snoggles, some grinding their gums and making that squishing rubber sound, a bullfrog bellow, a repeated chirping staccato like a giggling lamb, and then another cardinal.  David’s light flashes on in his tent.  And then Mark River’s.  Mark River can be heard stomping through the crackly bankside mattress of bullrushes, ferns and dried greens.  The far-off moan of a boat engine adds an accent.  One frog can be heard hiccuping like an amused old man clucking his tongue.  The whining of mosquitoes and at least two different kinds of crickets can be heard intertwining their rhythms, clicks, rasps and squeaks, maybe male and female?  And then a clan of coyotes far away cries and cries.

 

Yesterday we floated out of Broken Glass Island with a 3 mph current, and then paddled six miles down the main channel of the Atchafalaya.  We splintered off the main channel at the very first possible western exit, at the base of Shell Island (which is indeed a pile of shells - at least here at the mouth of the exit).  In hushed tones we floated down the Shell Island Pass, feeling the end coming near.  The water slowed and the current began releasing its hydraulic grip on the sediment load, and the channel broadened subtly, like the base of a Tupelo gum tree.  We made landing at the last possible shelf of land, the last piece of riverbank.  This was not a bank at all, as in the hard sand/gravel/mud edge true for most of the Lower Mississippi;  this bank is composed of living matter, an intertwining lattice of hyacinth, lotus, milfoil, alligator weed, elephant ear, and bull rush.  The veggie stew is not meant for heavy creatures like man.  Nevertheless it is the home of a thriving community of birds, amphibians, insects, crustaceans and fish.  Nutria seem to be the largest mammal allowed on this veggie mat.  They rule their floating vegetable kingdom from thrones made of piles of bull rush blades which add a couple of crucial inches of elevation and afford them a comfortable place to dry off, preen themselves, sun, play, procreate.  Furthermore these bullrush nests provide an effective vantage point from which they survey their vegetable wildlands and are able to scurry to safety at the first sight of danger (like a bald eagle or an alligator) or outside incursions like ours.

 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015, Morgan City Intracoastal Waterway Landing.  Morgan City Gage:  5.05  Back to land, the circle completed.  We paddled around a large swath of the Louisiana Atchafalaya Delta, from the westernmost run of the main channel to the eastern most bayou of the Wax Lake Outlet.  The Shell Island Pass took us off the Atchafalaya and floated us through the steadily descending treeline of scrubby willows, renegade willow clumps here and there hanging tough in the ever-increasing expanses of grasses... including rice, cut grass, saw grass, cat-tails, horse-tails, climbing hempweed, smart weed, and bull grass, and other swaying grasses of the marshes.  The grasses themselves eventually breaking off in clumps of floating grasses, and from there breaking down into individual stands of grasses, and then even individual shoots, as the land disappears completely into a mat of floating vegetable matter composed of elephant ear (also known as wild taro or coco yam), softstem bulrush, chickenspike, broadleaf arrowhead, purple ammanina, pondweed, water nymph, wild celery, stargrass, and lotus.  The nutria  rules from his kingdom from his bullrush throne, nests of bullrush clipped and arranged on slightly elevated mounds.

 

We exited the Atchafalaya Delta and became salty sailors for a long crossing to the Wax Lake Delta, leaving our freshwater habitat behind and letting ourselves loose upon the seas in an open craft (the canoe).  Six paddling sailors subject to the wiles of the Gulf of Mexico, which lapped our prow in gentle north breezes which kept things calm and didn’t blow us out to sea.  The Grasshopper joyfully slurping the brackish water which rounded in front of us unbroken to the distant Wax Lake Delta.  Wax Lake Delta resolves into Vermillion Bay, Marsh Island, and the open Coastal Prairies beyond, extending across the Sabine into Texas, Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, and rounding all of Central America to South America, and across all of the stepping stone islands of the Caribbean back to Cuba, Florida, Alabama, the Pascagoula, Mississippi and then across the Pearl River Delta, Honey Island Swamp, Lake Borgne, Breton Sound, The Mississippi Birdsfoot Delta, West Bay, Barataria Bay, Grand Island, Terrebonne Bay, and then back again to the Atchafalaya Bay, to form the great rounded pool which we are now floating upon, and the one place Louisiana is not losing ground, but is gaining ground.  To be truthful, we never got more than three miles off shore, and the muddy water flooding the Delta never actually cleared out enough to be called ocean water, and the Atchafalaya Bay we crossed probably never got deeper than 20 feet.  Still we could feel the ocean.  We felt connected to everything else connected to the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean.  And it felt good to be connected this way, the river rats to the rest of the Americas.