Rivergator Atchafalaya Appendix 12:
Bayou Teche: Nature & Science
From the Bayou Tech Project
The Bayou Teche and the Atchafalaya Basin
The Bayou Teche takes you on a journey into the geographical heart of Acadiana. Once described as the “most richly storied of the interior waters, and the most opulent,” this body of water was the center of a booming cypress industry in the early 1900s. The Teche winds its way through four parishes and ends in the Atchafalaya Basin, an essential source of food, timber, and fur, a refuge for escaped slaves and a natural resource for enterprising Cajuns and Creoles.
Bayou Teche was the Mississippi River some 5,000 years ago. The Atchafalaya River Basin first began forming about 5,000 years ago when Mississippi River meandered westward of its present-day course, resulting in a succession of bayous (the Teche), rivers and natural levees which compromise today’s Atchafalaya River floodplain.
Early economic development of the Atchafalaya Basin hinged on the Bayou Teche. Before roads, the little Teche, not the Atchafalaya, was the highway from the Gulf of Mexico into the heart of Louisiana. The Teche was navigable over 100 miles, yet just wide enough, deep enough, or swift enough to maneuver. Several Bayou Teche settlements materialized because of the timber and other water- borne economy, including seafood and recreational businesses.
Today, the Bayou Teche is cradled within the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area. Over 250 species of birds annually use this area, including tens of thousands of nesting herons, egrets, ibises and other wading birds. This region also annually hosts some of the highest nesting concentrations of Southern Bald Eagles, Red-Shouldered Hawks, Barred Owls, Acadian Flycatchers and Prothonotary Warblers in the United States. The American alligator along with 54 other species of reptiles and amphibians can also be found. Over 90 species of fish, crawfish, crabs, and shrimp support a thriving seafood industry.