The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail


Rivergator Atchafalaya Appendix 18:

Boat Names in Atchafalaya Basin:


Boat Names in Atchafalaya

Vioture - the early French settlers of the Atchafalaya traveled so predominantly by boat that the French word for "carriage" was often used as the general term for boat.


Pirogue - short narrow swamp vessel, originally carved dugout style from a single log, but now used as name for any vessel of that proportions. Flat bottomed, pointed ends usually sized for one or two passengers. Essentially a hard chine canoe with relatively low and flaired sides and a bottom with a slight rocker. Pirogues are still a popular vessel for the shallow waters of the Atchafalaya and a favorite amongst duck hunters.


Chaland - also called a flat boat or bateau, typically refers to an early utilitarian vessel of the Atchafalaya. Similar to a john boat with a flat bottom, shallow draft and blunt ends these boats were thought to have evolved from the barges used to transport goods down river. The chaland was a simple boat design that was more stable and carried more weight than a pirogue. Traditional wooden boats of this style evolved into the motorized boat of choice for fishermen originally powered by two cylinder engines and referred to as "putt-putts." Putt-putt rides are a popular attraction at boat festivals in Louisiana. 


Skiff - the term skiff  is widely used for most any vessel with a pointed front and flat stern, usually flat bottomed but there are many styles of skiffs found in Louisiana. The simple, practical and popular crawfish skiff is usually built from aluminum and seen throughout the Atchafalaya, the boat of choice for commercial fishermen in the Basin.


Joug - a stand up rowing rig for a skiff. The joug allows the boatsman to stand up in the skiff facing forward and row from that position. It was popular for commercial fishermen before the advent of the internal combustion engine.  




Lafitte skiff  - is a boat design widely used by commercial fishermen, primarily shrimpers and crabbers, in near shore coastal waters of Louisiana. The hull typically has a semi-V bow tapering to a flat bottom at the stern. The sides are widely flared creating a wide boat with a shallow draft and high payload capacity. Lafitte skiffs are often powered by large engines and capable of very high speeds to travel rapidly to fishing grounds, pull large nets, and carry a bounty of seafood.  Originally constructed from wood, most are fiberglass these days. 


Lugger - originally a sailing vessel, utilizing a dipping lug rig, the lugger is a boat commonly used by Louisiana oystermen. Now motorized with large diesel engines,these boats are found in costal waters and have a sharp bow, shallow draft, often a rear pilothouse and a large amount of forward deck space for piling sacks of oysters. A somewhat more seaworthy version of this vessel, developed in Mississippi, is known as the Biloxi lugger and was a common boat for commercial fishermen. These traditional boats, typically built of cypress are becoming more and more rare but beautiful examples can be seen at the Madisonville Wooden Boat Festival every year. 


For more information about the traditional boats of Louisiana, please go to: