The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Natchez to St. Francisville

St. Francisville, LA

St. Francisville is perhaps the most convenient resupply location on the Lower Miss.  Long distance paddlers be advised, you can find everything you need in this small town, and get it a lot easier than you will in any of the big cities, and most other river towns south of St. Louis.  The only comparable locations would be Chester, IL, Caruthersville, MO, Helena, AR, Vicksburg, or Natchez, MS.  Perhaps it’s the spanish moss hanging somnolently off the cypress and live oak trees, or maybe it’s the tin roof Carib feel of the downtown.  Whatever it is, when you come into St. Franny, you really feel Louisiana and the Gulf Coast for the first time.   Artist John James Audubon certainly thought so.  He descended the Mississippi River in 1820, and painted 32 of his famous works in his Birds of America series while residing at nearby Oakley Plantation as a tutor to Eliza Pirrie in 1821.  He dedicated his life to painting all of the birds in North America, and his classic Birds of America remains as one of the early records of the natural and geographic history of the Lower Mississippi River.  You can visit Oakley Plantation today for a better understanding of his life and passion.

 

St. Francisville is 20 land miles from the capital city of Baton Rouge and 30 by the river.  This is one of the few stretches below Memphis that has no levee. For the paddler, this translates to easy access to the town and its supplies. Boats and equipment can be stored without worry either directly on the river bank in the undergrowth or on the banks of nearby Bayou Sara.  A concrete boat ramp, a relic of the now-defunct St. Francisville ferry, provides convenient access to the main streets of this small community.  A two mile walk down main street, which passes though a beautiful historic district that's rich in history, will lead one to the Birdman Coffee & Books, and the Magnolia Cafe, which sit across from each other downtown.  Get a bag full of the Birdman “Seedhouse Cookies,” which are like pemmican -- so rich you could survive off of them.  The Magnolia Cafe has a great lunch menu that is available seven days a week, and serves dinner Thursday through Sunday.  Next to the “Mag,” as locals affectionately term it, is the 3V Tourist Courts.  These cabins can be rented by the day or week; rates are reasonable, and the rooms are well kept.  There are two grocery stores in town, including an IGA and a Super Fred’s, and they're fairly well stocked for whatever the paddler will need.  Al Aqaba serves mouth-watering Lebanese specialties like giros, falafel, and baba ganoush.  St. Francisville offers many other choices for accommodations and services, including a well-stocked Public Library with WIFI.  Paddlers could treat themselves with a much-needed backrub at Youtopia Massage, and then go to the Yoga Wellness Center to loosen up all those muscles that have constricted in your kayak or canoe.   For further information about St. Francisville contact the West Feliciana tourist information center at (225) 635-4224.

 

St. Francisville History

Bayou Sara and the area of St. Francisville was originally a settlement of the Ouma’s(Houmas) and later the Tunicas before being settled by the French who built  Fort St. Reyne near Bayou Sara in the early 1700s. The French originally designated Bayou Sara as “The River of the Jewish Virgin,” for reasons that are not clearly documented. However,over the years it was recorded under several, sometimes unfortunate, titles including: “Bayou Gonorhea,” “Clap River,” and “River of the Tunica’s” before being known as Bayou Sara. The area of Bayou Sara had a long and colorful history being ruled by the French, then the British, the Spanish and finally the United States in 1810. Once the largest port on the Mississippi between New Orleans and Natchez, Bayou Sara was a notorious riverboat town known for its barrooms, gambling, violence and debauchery. The town of Bayou Sara was plagued by illness and eventually succumbed to fire, flooding and boll weevils. In 1926, the State Legislature officially unincorporated the town. Remnants of the old street grid of Bayou Sara are visible extending perpendicular from the road leading from the old ferry landing into St. Francisville Proper; between Bayou Sara and the COE Mat casting field. Much of what was the city of Bayou Sara is now taken up by the mat casting field. Mrs Stephen Dart summed up the history of Bayou Sara in this way: In two hundred years, Bayou Sara has come full cycle. Once again as we view it today, the river bank looks very much as it did long ago when LaSalle passed by with his group of Indians and French explorers and the once important port is now just a memory. (LMRK)

 

265.5 LBD Army Corps Work Ramp

Shown on the USACE 2007 maps as a public landing, but it is not open for use and it is not a good ramp either, being all gravel and limited by water level for ease of use.

 

265.5 LBD St Francisville Mat Casting Field

Operated by the Army Corps of Engineers, the St Francisville Mat Casting Field is a 210 acre field in which the concrete squares that make up the “articulated mattresses” used to stabilize the river’s banks are cast and stockpiled. The concrete squares are linked together into large “mattresses” and installed on the river’s banks with the Corps’ large Mat Sinking Unit. Much of what was once the town of Bayou Sara is now taken up by the Mat Casting Field.

 

264.8 LBD St. Francisville Boat Ramp

Located a little over a mile from the Ferry Landing is a narrow ramp with weird angles at the top that make it anxiety inducing to negotiate with a trailer. It also requires a long drive down a poorly maintained gravel road along the front of the Mat Casting Field. Not recommended for put ins, or for access to St. Francisville now that the Old Ferry Landing is available.



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