The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail
121.3 Morgan City Texas and New Orleans Railroad Bridge
This innocuous railroad bridge is a milestone for long distance paddlers: it is the very last bridge on the entire Atchafalaya-Mississippi River system. Congratulations paddler! After paddling under your first bridge below Lake Itasca (the 1st 3 bridges are actually footbridges — very appropriate), and then under Minnesota Clearwater County 112, you have paddled under 100s of others in between from covered bridges to swing bridges, from concrete slab to steel truss, from cable-stay to suspension. The bridges of the Mississippi River could be an architectural study in of itself. You’ve seen them all, and paddled under them all. 100s of bridges in 2,000 miles to reach your last bridge, and here it is, within the seas walls the last city on the Atchafalaya River, Morgan City.
Low bridge with a vertical rise center span for towboats and other big vessels. Warning: this bridge become a hazard at 8’ Morgan City Gage and above. Scout first before attempting to go under this bridge when the river is at or above 8‘ MCG.
121.4 RBD Berwick Public Boat Ramp
The Berwick Public Boat Ramp is the only public boat ramp in the downtown. Double wide boat ramp within protected harbor. Excellent launch place, end place or meet place. You can park your car here and leave overnight, or for a week, with little concern for safety. Note: You could also make a landing across the river at the Morgan City Landing left bank descending above the railroad bridge at mile 121.2.
121.4 LBD Mr. Charlie: The International Petroleum Museum
Almost directly across the river from the Berwick Public Boat Ramp you might notice an floating oil derrick anchored up to the shore. This is the Mr. Charlie, and it’s tied up at the International Petroleum Museum, which claims to be “the Only Place in the World Where the General Public can Walk Aboard an Authentic Offshore Drilling Rig.”
From 1954 to 1986 “Mr. Charlie” drilled hundreds of offshore wells off the coast of Morgan City, Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico. He was the first transportable, submersible drilling rig and an industry springboard to the current offshore rig technology. “Mr. Charlie” was built in 1952 and finished in 1953. In 1954 he went to work for Shell Oil Company, drilling a new field in East Bay, near the mouth of the Mississippi River. Despite skepticism from offshore industry professionals, “Mr. Charlie” performed up to expectations and went on to drill hundreds of wells for every other major oil company operating in the Gulf, with a cumulative depth of 2.3 million feet.
His barge is approximately 220 feet long and 85 feet wide. Under the living quarters pontoons extend the width to 136 feet. The barge is 14 feet deep, with a 4 foot skirt extending below its bottom on both port and starboard sides. The floor of the platform is 60 feet above the barge, supported by the massive legs that serve to connect the barge and platform. These legs also serve as conduit for connecting services such as: electric, water & air lines, elevator access and other services needed to operate an independent facility, out of sight of land. “Mr. Charlie” could accommodate a crew of 58. Once “Mr. Charlie” was on location, he was an independent island and nearly totally self-sufficient with room to store drinking water, food, and supplies for the crew. He generated his own electricity, disposed of his own waste, provided his own communication system, and contained enough fuel to accomplish these tasks. He also maintained supplies and equipment to perform his job of drilling a well. He also had to be prepared for any emergency with a complete fire fighting system, blow out preventors, and medical supplies and equipment. “Mr. Charlie” was capable of drilling wells in water depths up to 40 feet and had a prolific career lasting nearly 4 decades. He revolutionized the offshore oil industry in the Gulf and world-wide. He was retired in late 1986 when drilling activity headed into water deeper than his “feet.” The offshore industry was born in Morgan City, and “Mr. Charlie” carried it into the Gulf of Mexico and shipped it around the globe. “Mr. Charlie” revolutionized the offshore oil industry and lead to the technology currently being used around the world. This historic and renowned structure now continues in a new role, teaching others about an industry that changed the world; the offshore oil industry.