The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Atchafalaya Lower

Estimate your Camp Height

How can you estimate your camp height above water level?  Here are several methods: 1) Stand at the edge of the water looking back at your camp and slowly raise and lower your head by bending your knees until you feel that your eyes are level with camp.  Estimate this height.  That should be as good as you’ll need, but not everyone is comfortable with this method.  If you need something more concrete, try this: 2)  Add a string line, string level, and small tape measure to your expedition kit.  Before setting up your potential campsite, attach one end of the string line to a stick, or stake, or something within your camp choice, and pull the string taught.  Now run it out to the water’s edge and attach string level.  Keep string tight.  Once you have found level, measure the height of the string above the water.  This will give you a fairly accurate measurement.  (Hint: it helps to do this with two people, one holding string, the other measuring height).  This method was suggested by paddler Ben Quaintance in 2015.

100.2 LBD Blue Hole Landing

Open space on bank for low/medium water camping & picnicking.

100.4 LBD Dead End Canal

100.4 RBD Bottom of Myette Point Island

101.8 Exxon Pipeline 8” lpg pipeline

102.4 Louisiana Intrastate Gas Corp 36” gas pipeline

102.5 Acadian Gas Pipeline System 20” gas pipeline

102.6 Union Carbide 8” ethylene pipeline

102.6 Promix LLC liquid hydrogen pipeline

102.6 United Gas 7” pipeline

102 RBD Sixmile Lake: Access to Wax Lake Outlet

There is a mile-wide opening on the right bank descending that will have some inward flow, and will lead paddlers to Sixmile Lake.  At times 10% of the river flow goes this direction.   Sixmile lake exits through the Wax Lake Outlet, which leads to the Wax Lake Delta, and could be a final Gulf Coast destination for long distance paddlers.

Wax Lake Outlet: Alternate Route to the Gulf

Most Paddlers will go through Morgan City to reach the Gulf, but please be aware that you could turn right at Myette Point 102 RBD and cross Sixmile Lake to access the Wax Lake Outlet.   Check the route on Google Earth.  Follow the Wax Lake Outlet to the Wax Lake Delta.  This could be a final Gulf Coast destination for long distance paddlers.  Your return route could be back up the same outlet, but a more interesting route would be to circle back up the Atchafalaya Delta and end in Morgan City (Intracoastal Waterway/Berwick Boat Ramp is the best location).  Or you could paddle west into Bayou Sale Bay and pull out at Burns Point Park (As several expeditions have done in recent years.  Hwy 317 South of Centerville, Centerville, LA, 70522, 337-836-9784).

Paradise Regained: The Wax Lake Delta

In appearance, the Calumet Cut (also called the Wax Lake Outlet or the Wax Lake Spillway) is not unlike the thousands of other man-made, straight-shot canals that crisscross southern Louisiana. When the channel was opened just west of Morgan City in 1941, it wasn’t intended to be anything but a large drainage canal. But over the years, it’s become something else.  There’s a formidability about the canal that seemed to occupy Sauce. After seven decades receiving flow from the Atchafalaya, it has grown in width, depth, and current. According to a 2005 research paper authored by scientists from the ExxonMobile research department and LSU’s Coastal Studies Institute, the canal dug by Lloyd Sauce’s father was originally forty-four feet deep and forty feet wide. But Sauce pointed to a place upstream, just past a gray houseboat flying the American flag, and said, “They got one place up above the high lines up there, it’s got like about seventy, eighty, ninety foot of water.” It has also grown in width, measuring six hundred feet across in some places. “Every year, this water’s just more and more and more water, just coming through.”  In the thirties, no one seemed to wonder what would happen to this water once it mixed with the brackish waters of the Atchafalaya Bay. The unwanted water wasn’t meant to go anywhere except for somewhere else: out of sight and away from the floodwalls and oil infrastructure of Morgan City. But Sauce described extreme changes at the canal’s terminus. “When I was probably about eight years old, the spillway—right out where it ends to the bay—it used to be just the coastline. But now you go down there, and there’s sandbars and trails, and everything’s just flushed out through there. All this water, sand ...” In other words, unlike almost every other place along the Louisiana coast, land is growing, not disappearing, at the base of this old canal.  He went to his truck, pulled out a map of the bay, and pointed to where the coastline used to be. Far beneath that line on his map, a delta fanned out, shaped like the canopy of a tree, off into the bay. “It used to be nothing but just straight, whoosh, coastline.” He motioned to chop the delta off the map.  The new delta is called the Wax Lake Delta, and over the last forty years it has created twelve thousand acres of land, nearly three times the area of Morgan City. At lower tides, the acreage is even bigger. “We used to hunt coons and stuff on the beach,” said Sauce. “When the tide was out, the water was down, them coons would be out on the beach getting them clam shells, and we’d track ‘em down and shoot ‘em for the fur. And now it ain’t like that. Nothing like that. It looks like this.” He pointed to the forested banks across the channel.  (by Wolf E. Staudinger for Country Roads Magazine.  Go to Appendix for complete story)

103.8 LBD Narrow Bayou leading to East Grand Lake

This bayou is only accessible during higher water levels, although paddlers could portage over the shallow entrance that is dry at medium and low water levels.  We mention this here because there is an interesting high ground on the inside of a tight bend approx. 500 feet down the bayou that would make an excellent out-of-the-way campsite or picnic place, and neat place to explore.

105 LBD Blue Point Chute: Shortcut to Cypress Wonderland

Blue Point Chute runs northeasterly off the main channel at LBD 105.  This wide waterway flows at most levels down to low water, and provides an easy route for to follow out of the main channel Atchafalaya into the cypress swamp wonderland of the East Basin.  Paddle down Blue Point Chute and fork right into Willow Cove.  Willow Cove brings you to the spectacular Duck Lake, or you can continue down Bayou Boulee and access Flat Lake via Big Bayou Joe and Dog Island Pass.  Or explore the cypress/tupelo gum wonderland found down Little Bayou Sorrel.  Or you can return to Main Channel via the American Pass.  So many choices here!  Use your Louisiana Geological Survey Atchafalaya Basin Map for wayfinding the best route, and check latest details on Google Earth.  Note: The Atchafalaya River is surprisingly connected, thanks to a series of satellite towers situated throughout the Basin.

107.1 Central Louisiana Electrical Company Aerial Crossing

107.9 Exxon Gas Transmission Company 20” gas pipeline

You can follow the canal carved through the cypress swampland by Exxon Gas Transmission Company left bank descending at mile 107.9 to reach Bayou Boulee and access Flat Lake via Big Bayou Joe.  Or you can return to Main Channel via the American Pass.

108.2 Koch Gateway Pipeline Company 30” natural gas pipeline

108.3 RBD Shortcut to Sixmile Lake

Paddlers can enter the bayou at 108.3 right bank descending for an easy entrance to the bottom of Sixmile Lake and passage into the Wax Lake Outlet.  At any water levels above low water there will be good flow through here, and you will enjoy the flow out of Sixmile Lake down to the Wax Lake Delta in the Gulf of Mexico.