The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Atchafalaya Lower

75.7 LBD Jake’s Bayou

Small bayou meandering through the woods, flowing 2-3 mph at 21 KG.  You can use Jake’s Bayou as a shortcut to Bayou Sorrel via Bloody Bayou (which dead-ends at Bayou Sorrell).  Go to Bayou Sorrel for detailed description about back channel route to Morgan City via Jake’s Bayou and Bayou Sorrel.  A maze of bayous and slough threading throughout the natural floodplain, loaded with houseboats, homesteads, and hunting camps. Bayous named Jakes, Bloody, Indigo, Florida, Bee, Flat Lake Pass and Keelboat Pass. Hunting camps and homesteads like Willow Bend, Ruttin Buck, Hog Island and Broad Road. Some looked cozy and well kept; some looked like my room, disorganized and chaotic,  but home sweet home. Many commercial fishermen roared by scoping out potential spots for the upcoming crawfish season and some looked as if to be joyriding celebrating the rise of the bayous. We surprised alligators relaxing, waiting on the water temperature to climb, and large gar suspended in the channel getting fat before the peak of the spawn. Small frogs and turtles skip between logs, while kingfishers stealthily fly across the channel hunting for baitfish. Raccoons scramble up trees, while great blue herons and hawks occupy the trees. Large palmettos sit on the high grounds of the swamp, while large cypress trees thrive in the shallow lake marshes.  (Mark River)

75.8 Three Major Pipelines

Three major pipelines go under the river here: Southern Natural Gas 6” pipeline, and two Equilon pipelines, one 12” carrying ethylene and one 10” carrying propylene.

76.2 Dow Pipeline Co.

76.3 Dow Pipeline Co.

76.4 LBD Lake Mongoulois Point

There are some open meadows along the riverbank at Lake Mongoulois Point that would make for possible picnicking or camping up to 24KG.

77.2 RBD Bayou Chene

Bayou Chene is a major West Basin distributary leading off the river at the top of Lower Cow Island on the right bank descending at mile 77.2  You could follow an off-main channel route all the way to Morgan City via Bayou Chene.  Bayou Chene leads to Alligator Bayou, whihc goes into Little Gonsoulin Bayou, which leads to the Lake Fausse Pointe Cut.  Lake Fausse Pointe Cut follows the West Basin Protection levee back the main channel at Grand Lake where you could either rejoin main channel, or dive into Six Mile Lake to exit via the Wax Lake Outlet.

 

Bayou Chene was a community settled in the 1830s located about 40 miles north of Morgan City.   The U.S. post office was established there in 1858. The settlers there ran a church, a school, a merchandise store and the post office, which were all located on the bayou. In the 1920s it had approximately 500 residents, most of whom had lived there for generations after settling there from other communities both within and outside of Louisiana. They were swampers, lumberjacks, trappers, farmers, fishermen and moss pickers.  The community thrived despite occasional flooding until the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 destroyed much of the community. The community rebuilt, but declined afterwards as the construction of the Atchafalaya Spillway levees and dredging of river channels caused repeated flooding of the community. The school was relocated to higher ground in 1945, and closed in 1953, shortly after the post office closed in 1952. Most of the residents left at that time. Today the historical community of Bayou Chene lies under approximately 12 feet of silt. (Wikipedia)

79.9 Tarleton Bayou

Beautiful off channel sandy picnic or camping area can be access at the mouth of bayou  by entering cypress-studded opening at this point and bushwahacking 100 feet to bayou enlargement.  If you hit it right it will be an easy paddle.  Best dry ground is found when the river is below 20KG.  This place goes under around 25KG.  At 30 KG strong flow pushes up Tarleton Bayou back to Bayou Chene.

81.2 LBD Bayou Sorrel

Bayou Sorrel is the second major East Basin distributary of the Atchafalaya Basin (Upper Grand being the first), drawing a big volume of water off the main channel and delivering it across the entire breadth of the swampland at this level, along the way feeding dozens of smaller bayous which in turn splinter again into yet more bayous and lakes.  You can enter Bayou Sorrel here and get a free ride eastward all the way to the East Basin levee near the town with the same name.  At 21 Krotz Springs Gage Bayou Sorrel flows along at 3-4 mph.  Bayou Sorrel also makes for an amazing journey through the heart of the Atchafalaya; keep reading below. 

81.2 LBD Bayou Sorrell: Alternate route down the Atchafalaya

Dean Wilson, the Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, recommends this route to paddlers who want to see the innards of the Atchafalaya.  This is a long route which could take 2-4 days depending on how hard you want to paddle, how much sight-seeing you do along the way, and how many wrong turns you take.  It also depends on water level.  Dean’s route is best between 20 and 25 KG (Krotz Springs Gage).  It is possible at any water levels higher, but there will be very few places to camp.  At 30 the only dry ground will be found on pipeline canal tailings.  At 35 KG all land will be underwater.    Following this route is like driving across Paris: many turns on may different streets; the streets sometimes change names.

 

Dean’s Route is this: Jake’s Bayou to Bloody Bayou, dead-ends at Bayou Sorrell.  Turned left (east) down Bayou Sorrell and then forked right (south) on Indian Bayou.  Right on Florida Canal.  Right on Bee Bayou, paddle upstream to to reach Flat Lake Pass.  (Note: This is not the Flat Lake near Morgan City, but another one).  Left on Flat Lake Pass around Hog/Eagle Island.  Hog/Eagle Island sits at the top of Upper Grand Lake.  Paddle down East Grand Lake to pipeline canal running east through some cypress trees about 1/4 mile above the bottom of the lake.  At the intersection of a couple of pipeline channels cut into the woods to Little Bayou Long, or the bayou next to it, and followed that meandering southwards to Duck Lake.  We found our second camp near the intersection of Bayou Boulee and American Pass.  The next day we paddled down the American Pass to Big Bayou Joe which opened up into Flat Lake Pass which led us to Flat Lake.  All of the lakes and flowing channels were full of water water hyacinth.  The flow down American Pass was highlighted with a parade of hyacinth islands floating by endlessly.  The edges of many lakes were so cluttered with the same that there would be no way to reach the woods.  The water flow varied from 1/2 mph to 3 mph going into Flat Lake.  A five miles paddle across the lake (with some sightseeing and eagle watching along the way), and then through Drew’s Pass, brought us back to the main channel of the Atchafalaya, at mile 119, just above Morgan City.  Three days of paddling through the swamps and bayous brought us back to the same river, about 40 miles downstream!

3 Days on Dean’s Route

We followed “Dean’s Route” in the spring of 2015; we entered the back channels on the morning of the first day, and reached Morgan City around noon on the 3rd day.  Here is how it went: we paddled first down Jake’s Bayou, and then Bloody Bayou, which dead-ends at Bayou Sorrell.  We turned left down Bayou Sorrell and then forked right (south) on Indian Bayou.  When that ended we took a right on Florida Canal, the water slowing, the land dropping away into extensive swamps on either side.  We paddled through a dogleg connector to reach Bee Bayou where we had to paddle upstream to to reach Flat Lake Pass.  (Note: This is not the Flat Lake near Morgan City, but another one).  We followed Flat Lake Pass with renewed current (coming from a vigorous connection off the main river) to where it split north and south around Hog/Eagle Island.  Hog/Eagle Island sits at the top of East Grand Lake and is a remnant high ground leftover from a former river channel which flowed here.  We camped at its bottom extremity, which comes together in a a point.  The next morning we paddled the length of East Grand Lake and then exited into a broad pipeline canal running east through some cypress trees about 1/4 mile above the bottom of the lake.  A sluggish current slowly emptied out of the lake and through the canal into a seeming dead end.  Not until we reached the dead end did we find a narrow “surprise” exit through another stand of cypress (where we found a high ground for a charming picnic spot full of leafy greens, elephant ears and yellow rockets) at the intersection of a couple of pipeline channels cut into the woods.  After lunch we continued down these pipeline channels as ways to Little Bayou Long, or the bayou next to it, and followed that meandering southwards to Duck Lake.  The bayous finally opened up and we knew we had finally reached Duck Lake.  Duck Lake is full of stately cypress.  It has a special feel, like a wood-lined library.  We found our second camp near the intersection of Bayou Boulee and American Pass.  The next day we paddled down the American Pass to Big Bayou Joe which opened up into Flat Lake Pass which led us to Flat Lake.  All of the lakes and flowing channels were full of water water hyacinth.  The flow down American Pass was highlighted with a parade of hyacinth islands floating by endlessly.  The edges of many lakes were so cluttered with the same that there would be no way to reach the woods.  The water flow varied from 1/2 mph to 3 mph going into Flat Lake.  A three-mile paddle across the lake (with some sightseeing and eagle-watching along the way), and then through Drew’s Pass, brought us back to the main channel of the Atchafalaya, at mile 119, just above Morgan City.  Three days of paddling through the swamps and bayous brought us back to the same river, about 40 miles downstream!   As with all back channel paddling in the Basin, the Louisiana Geological Survey Atchafalaya Basin Map is your best resource for wayfinding.   Check latest details on Google Earth.  The Atchafalaya Basin is surprisingly connected, thanks to a series of satellite towers situated throughout.