The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Atchafalaya Lower

108.7 Exxon Pipeline 8” oil gas pipeline

108.8 Southern Natural Gas Co 12” natural gas pipeline

108.9 Southern Natural Gas Co 12” natural gas pipeline

108.9 Southern Natural Gas Co 6” natural gas pipeline

109 Southern Natural Gas Co 12” gas pipeline

109 RBD Cypress Pass Back Channel

Tired of the Main Channel?  Dive into a narrow back channel at 109 right bank descending and enjoy a three-mile meandering passage through willows, hardwoods and swampland.  Return to Main Channel at mile 111.5 RBD.

109.5 Duck Lake Channel

You could follow this convoluted channel to Duck Lake, via many twists and turns along canal cut by oil companies in former days.  Some of the canals have become Cajun houseboat hideaways, with dozens of houseboats floating in almost suburban grid pattern.  Use Google Earth to best orient yourself as to the best canals to follow, and best entrance to reach Duck Lake.

Duck Lake

Duck Lake is a magical place ringed by 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 mile of bottomland hardwood forests and twenty miles of cypress/tupelo gum forests you have finally reached the nation of the ancient tree people standing tall and proud.

Many Rivers to Follow

The Atchafalaya River is predominantly south flowing for its first 110 miles, until Cypress Pass when turns eastward and makes a ten mile run before turning south again at Morgan City.  As it makes this eastward run the river splits into five distinct channels (inlcuding Main Channel) and of which the paddler can follow and enjoy good flow regardless of river level.  The five possibilities are from west to east: Lower Atchafalaya River, Riverside Pass, Three Island Pass, Little Island Pass and Main Channel Atchafalaya River.  We’ll succinctly describe these five choices as they appear coming down the main channel.

111.7 RBD Lower Atchafalaya River

The Lower Atchafalaya River is the smallest of the five possible routes.  You will find it by first descending the Riverside Pass 3/4 mile below Main Channel.  Bear right into Riverside Pass at 111.7 right bank descending and then take the first open flowing channel to the right flowing south.  Lower Atchafalaya River meanders southward a mile where it butts the West Protection Levee and follows it a couple hundred yards southeast, then turns east 1/4 mile, then  southeast again, then east agin where it narrows considerably and the flow spreads out into the woods to meander a mile or so before returning to the Riverside Pass.  The Lower Atchafalaya River defines the outer edge of Berwick Island.

111.7 RBD Riverside Pass

Riversaide Pass gently meanders six miles in a broad arc southeasterly and then northeasterly along the West Protection Levee to return to the Main Channel Atchafalaya at Stouts Point, 117 RBD.

112.5 RBD Three Island Pass

Enter Three Island Pass at 112.5 right bank descending and enjoy the gentle wandering channel as it flows eastward between Morgan Island and Middle Island.  Three Island Pass is about 3 miles long.

113 RBD Little Island Pass

Little Island Pass is the widest and potentially most common of the five passes, but still more interesting than the Main Channel.  Three miles long, it separates Little Island from Middle Island.

Main Channel Atchafalaya River

The Main Channel Atchafalaya River takes six miles in a broad rounded bend around Morgan Island, Middle Island and Little Island.  American Island, Dog Island, and Drew’s Island forms its left bank shore (which is north in this eastward flowing stretch of river).  You will find many dry spots along the outside edge of the riverbend, which gets scoured by turbulent waters in flood stage, but becomes a lovely wooded bank as the river drops and exposes freshly laid sands and muddy soils.

115.1 American Pass

American Pass flows into the Atchafalaya, bringing with it sweetwater refreshened by the thousands of miles of bayous, bays and backwaters the comprise the heart of the Atchafalaya Basin.  [Add the wetlands connection blurb!]

115.8 LBD Pipeline Canal to Dog Island Pass and Flat Lake

Paddlers can gain access to atmospheric Flat Lake via this pipeline canal.  Follow canal north through some airy marshes and willows and turn east onto Dog Island Pass.  Dog Island Pass is a broad channel lined with cypress on the far side.  Dog Island Pass narrows into an incredible collection of stately cypress guarding the neck to open water beyond, each one taller and more noble than the one before, each thick with Spanish moss.  This delightful neck leads you into the lake itself.  In catastrophic high waters (8 or more on the Morgan City Gage) Atchafalaya River waters will wash across Drew’s Island directly into Flat Lake.  At these levels paddlers will want to avoid travel on the river.  Very dangerous.

Flat Lake

Flat Lake is the quintessential Louisiana lake, ringed by some of the most beautiful, austere cypress trees seen anywhere in the south.  Paddlers coming down the Mississippi who lock over into the Atchafalaya can make a short detour off the main channel at mile 115.8 LBD and access Flat Lake via a pipeline canal that opens into Flat Lake Pass which leads to the lake itself.   Paddle across the lake (3-5 miles depending on your route) and return to main channel via Drew’s Pass.  Flat Lake is also a fishermen’s paradise.  In the winter, deep dead-end channels off the main Atchafalaya River and its two outlets to the Gulf of Mexico may hold good pockets of fish. Some anglers fish Flat Lake, one of four interconnected natural lakes north of Morgan City. Through various bayous and channels, Flat Lake connects to the 11,500-acre Lake Palourde and the 1,024-acre Grassy Lake. Just to the north, these lakes connect to the 14,000-acre Lake Verret at the southern end of the Atchafalaya Basin.  “The Lake Verret area probably has lower numbers of bass, but bigger fish,” said Mike Walker, a Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biologist in New Iberia. “The marshes in St. Mary and Terrebonne parishes have the numbers. The average weight of bass in the Atchafalaya Basin is about two pounds, but there have been some bass over 10 pounds caught due to the Florida bass stocking program.”

115.8 - 119.8 LBD Drew’s island

Drew’s Island separates Flat Lake from the Main Channel of the Atchafalaya River.  High ground is found along the entire length of the Drew’s Island, and would make the best camping above Morgan City.  Possible camps and picnic sites up to bank full 6’ on the Morgan City Gage.

117 RBD Stouts Point

119 Drew’s Pass

Best access to Flat Lake from Morgan City is through Drew’s Pass.  If you’ve paddled through the heart of the Atchfalaya Basin most likely you will paddle through Drew’s Pass on your way out of Flat Lake back to the Atchafalaya.