The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Atchafalaya Lower

East Grand Lake

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.

81.6 Exxon Pipeline Co 6” oil pipeline

82.4 LBD Bee Bayou

Bee Bayou is another cross-Basin waterway that feeds deep into the heart of the Atchafalaya, but could be used to access the East Basin Protection Levee as well.  Bee Bayou would make an easy entrance to reach East Grand Lake via Keelboat Pass or Hog Island Pass, both of which flow around the sides of Hog/Eagle Island at the top of East Grand Lake.  We found Bee Bayou to be flowing 2-3 mph east with the Atchafalaya at 21KG.  There is a nice camp on Bee Bayou at the top end of Flat Lake Pass.

82 - 99 Chicot Pass

There are not a lot of options in this stretch of the main channel, which was cut into and now inhabits the old Chicot Pass.  Some of the few landings are found where on dredge tailings where pipelines cross under the river.  As such, the Rivergator will list all of the pipelines.

82.9 Dow Chemical lpg pipeline

82.9 Trans Canada Gas Processing 8” liquid gas pipeline

83 Pipeline Tailings

It’s not very pretty, but it stays dry in higher water levels.  You could make a possible picnic or campsite here on the dredging tailings from the Dow Pipeline.

83 Dow Pipeline (unknown details)

83.1 Enterprise Products two 8” natural gas pipelines

83.2 Philip’s Canal

Philip’s Canal is a pipeline canal also known as Bayou Jean Louis, leading to St. Bon Canal, and Bayou Chene, which runs along the West Basin Protection Levee.

83.9 Florida Gas Transmission Co. 8” gas pipeline

85.7 RBD Danbury Management Corp Dock

An example of some of the intensive oil exploration and extraction that takes place in the Atchafalaya Basin.  Avoid area.

86.2 RBD Canal Entrance

Stays dry up to higher water levels.  Small harbor and grassy banks.

86.8 RBD Canal Entrance

Old entrance to West Fork Chicot Pass which is now filling in due to sedimentation.  Slight anomaly in the bank here creates a possible picnic or campsite here, with close by woods for protection in winds or storms.  Underwater and flowing during high river levels of spring pulse.

88.1 RBD Canal Entrance

Alternate entrance to West Fork Chicot Pass -- but now filling in due to sedimentation in recent decades.  Would make good dry spot for landings except for nearby cabin and posted no trespassing. 

89.7 RBD Pipeline Canal

This broad pipeline canal leads into a cypress swamp which separates (West) Grand Lake into two lakes.  Great birding and wildlife viewing, and possible highwater access to West Fork Chicot Pass.

91.2 Texas Gas Transmission Co. 12” gas pipeline

Going left, paddlers can gain access to East Grand Lake via this pipeline canal.  Going right, paddlers could access the West Protection Levee.  The Attakapas Island Wildlife Management Area begins below this pipeline crossing.

Attakapas Island Wildlife Management Area

The Attakapas Island Wildlife Management Area sprawls over this stretch of the river from from mile 91.2 down to 99, and from Bayou Chene to East Grand Lake.  Attakapas Wildlife Management Area, located in upper St. Mary Parish and in parts of lower St. Martin and Iberia Parishes, was acquired in 1976. The center of the area is situated about 20 miles NW of Morgan City and 10 miles NE of Franklin. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers owns a small tract of land that is also managed by La. Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.  Access to the 27,962 acre tract is by boat only, with major public launches available: (1) Millet Point, at St. Mary Parish Road 123, off of Hwy 87, (2) NNE of Charenton Of Hwy 326, (3) above Morgan City on Hwy 70, (4) off Hwy. 75 at Bayou Pigeon landing in Iberville Parish. The terrain is characterized by flat swampland subject to periodic flooding and siltation from the Atchafalaya River. Areas adjacent to the River and spoil banks from dredging activities provide upland habitat and refuge areas during periods of high water. Many pockets in the management area have silted in and will continue to increase the land-to-water ratio.  The main overhead vegetation in the swamp is cypress and tupelo with some oak, maple and hackberry growing in the upland areas. Black willow is prevalent on the newly deposited lands, which are prevalent throughout the management area. Understory vegetation in upland tracts includes blackberry, deciduous holly, elderbery, and goldenrod. Greenbriars, peppervine, pokeweed, palmetto and switch cane. Common swamp plants are lizard tail, alligator weed, smartweed, coontail, pennywort and water hyacinth. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew caused wide scale destruction to the trees on Attakapas. The Department reforested many of the higher areas along the Atchafalaya River with cypress, ash, elm, water oak, nuttall oak, cherrybark oak, cow oak and other upland species. Also, roughly 30 miles of trails have been created and maintained around these reforested plots on the east and west sides of the Atchafalaya River.  Game animals most hunted on the management area are deer, rabbits and squirrels. Waterfowl hunting is also popular. Other animals present are beaver, nutria, otter, mink, muskrat, raccoon, bobcat, opossum, and alligator. Trapping is allowed for furbearing animals. Hawks, owls, shorebirds, and neo-tropical migrants are also present. Crawfish, found throughout the spillway, provide commercial and recreational opportunities. Major fish caught in the area include catfish, mullet, bass, bluegill, gar, bowfin, and freshwater drum.  The self-clearing permit is required for hunters only. There are three primitive, remote camping areas on Attakapas. There is one camping area with picnic tables and running water located on St. Mary Parish Road 123 near Millet Point. Additional information may be obtained may be obtained from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, 5652 Hwy 182, Opelousas, Louisiana 70570. (Louisiana Dept Wildlife & Fisheries)