The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Atchafalaya Lower

Gulf Route: Crossing over to the Wax Lake Delta

Expeditions could paddle out to the Gulf from the Atchafalaya and make a three-mile crossing over to the Wax Lake Delta for the return trip to Morgan City.  Check forecasts first before attempting this route.  You would not want to be be making an open bay crossing in high winds from any direction.  Here is how the crossing went for the Rivergator Expedition in 2015:


We exited the Atchafalaya Delta and became salty sailors for a long crossing to the Wax Lake Delta, leaving our freshwater habitat behind and letting ourselves loose upon the seas in an open craft (the canoe).  Six paddling sailors subject to the wiles of the Gulf of Mexico, which lapped our prow in gentle north breezes which kept things calm and didn’t blow us out to sea.  The Grasshopper joyfully slurping the brackish water which rounded in front of us unbroken to the distant Wax Lake Delta.  Wax Lake Delta resolves into Vermillion Bay, Marsh Island, and the open Coastal Prairies beyond, extending across the Sabine into Texas, Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, and rounding all of Central America to South America, and across all of the stepping stone islands of the Caribbean back to Cuba, Florida, Alabama, the Pascagoula, Mississippi and then across the Pearl River Delta, Honey Island Swamp, Lake Borgne, Breton Sound, The Mississippi Birdsfoot Delta, West Bay, Barataria Bay, Grand Island, Terrebonne Bay, and then back again to the Atchafalaya Bay, to form the great rounded pool which we are now floating upon, and the one place Louisiana is not losing ground, but is gaining ground.  To be truthful, we never got more than three miles off shore, and the muddy water flooding the Delta never actually cleared out enough to be called ocean water, and the Atchafalaya Bay we crossed probably never got deeper than 20 feet.  Still we could feel the ocean.  We felt connected to everything else connected to the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean.  And it felt good to be connected this way, the river rats to the rest of the Americas.  (From John Ruskey journal)

Atchafalaya Delta Wildlife Management Area

The Atchafalaya Delta Wildlife Management Area is a 137,695-acre area located at the mouths of the Atchafalaya River and the Wax Lake Outlet in St. Mary Parish. The area is located some 25 miles south of the towns of Morgan City and Calumet and is accessible only by boat.  Most of the area consists of open water in Atchafalaya Bay. Within the Bay, two deltas (the Main Delta and the Wax Lake Delta) have formed from the accretion of sediments from the Atchafalaya River and from the deposition of dredged material by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Only about 27,000 acres are vegetated on these deltas. About 15,000 acres of marsh and scrubby habitat occur on the Main Delta, and about 12,000 acres of marsh occur on the Wax Lake Delta.  Hunting on the Delta is primarily for waterfowl, deer, and rabbit. Deer hunting on the Main Delta (deer hunting on the Wax Lake Delta is not permitted) is restricted to archery hunting by adults and youth lottery gun hunts. Harvest per unit effort on deer is extremely high. Fur trapping, commercial fishing, recreational fishing (especially for redfish, catfish, bass, and bluegill) and alligator harvests also yield great returns. Non-consumptive recreational pursuits include boating, camping, and bird-watching, especially on the Main Delta. The area has two campground areas (with primitive restrooms) and has a number of pilings available for houseboat mooring.  Overnight mooring is allowed via permit only (16-day permits or hunting season permits).  Year-round mooring is prohibited.  LDWF offers both lease and lottery opportunities.  Contact LDWF New Iberia Office for more details at 337-373-0032.

138.5 LBD Low Lying muddy/sandy Beach with Willows

Good in low water conditions only.  Check wind forecast and tide charts, and pull your vessel at least one foot above water level and tie it down.  Set tents at least one foot above high tide level.

139.1 LBD Small Shell Beach

This small shell beach might be good at low or medium water levels for a dry landing.

140 LBD Deer Island

Dry camping & picnicking can be found at all water levels up to flood stage on several short shell beaches with scrubby woods and marshes behind.   Best beaches are found on a prominence jutting out from Deer Island left bank descending at mile 140.  But don’t venture too far inland from the beach as there is a hunting camp located 100 yards inland along a separate bayou.

140.5 RBD Breaux’s Pass

Your next passible route to the Gulf after the Shell Island Pass would be Breaux’s Pass.  No camping here, but you could paddle down and turn around afterwards.

140.2 LBD Location Island Pass

Location Island Pass is the first East Bank Pass option to the Gulf, and is short and sweet.  You could paddle two miles down this pass and make a landing on the beautiful beaches of Plumb Island Point.  Check route on Google Earth.  If the weather is good camp one night on the beaches of Plumb Island Point and then turn around and paddle back to Morgan City.

142.2 LBD East Pass

Although there are no landings at the end of you could paddle down and back.  But this is not recommended.  Try one of the other passes with beaches for the best conclusion of your expedition!  East Pass flows past Roger Brown Island and leads to several alternate passes, which splinter off into still more passes and brackish marshland.  Endless paradise for birders and nature watchers.  East Pass leads to Natal Pass, Vice Grip Channel, Ivor Island, Tiger Pass, Rodney Island, Ibis Island, Castille Pass, and Gary Island.

144.2 RBD Amerada Pass

Amerada Pass would be a good choice for paddlers to reach the Gulf, then turn around and camp at a designated Campground!  The Atchafalaya Delta WMA maintains a boat-access only campground approximately one mile down Amerada Pass on Willow Island.  You could paddle down, check in with the ranger at Park Headquarters, and then paddle out to the Gulf.  Break open your bottle of champagne, celebrate your successful  expedition, and then paddle back to camp.  This would be an excellent way to end your great adventure.  The only drawback is that there are no views of the open Gulf from here.  On the other hand, you would be in good company in a safe place.  And you would get a first hand look at the Atchafalaya Delta flora and fauna, along with possible interpretation from WMA staff.  Amerada Pass continues on to Catfish Pass and Arrowhead Island. 

144.2 RBD Willow Island

Even though there are a few rough shell beaches at the top end of Willow Island (between Amerada Pass and Log Island Pass), Willow Island is restricted access only.  Avoid camping here.