The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

St. Francisville to Baton Rouge

229.1 LBD Glass Beach (Baton Rouge Boat Ramp)

There is a paved public ramp just downstream from the Interstate 10 Bridge, at mile 229 on the East bank.  On the maps it is labeled Baton Rouge Boat Ramp, but locals call it Glass Beach.  Its banks are covered with white clamshells.  These are imported from the Gulf.  Glass Beach Boat Ramp is directly upstream from the old Municipal Dock, future (2015) site of the Water Institute of the Gulf.  The Pastime Lounge (poboy sandwiches and pizza), lies about 400 yards from the ramp in the shadow of the bridge approach ramp.  Why “Glass Beach?”  Embedded in the levee (LBD), just upstream from the I-10 Bridge, behind some sheet piling, sits –not inappropriately—a dump.  It closed before 1960, but locals know this spot as the “glass beach,” because it glitters at low water.  If you want a souvenir of Baton Rouge, see if you can find an old Coke bottle bottom with “Baton Rouge” molded into it.  (Mike Beck)

 

Glass Beach is the only public access for boaters on the main channel of the Mississippi within greater Baton Rouge.  If you need access to water, supplies, or a shuttle pickup, this is the ramp you’ll want to use.  (Note: The boat ramp shown in the so-called “Baton Rouge Harbor” on the USACE 2007 maps is not publicly accessible it is part of an old Baton Rouge Landfill property which is behind locked gates).  The only other choice would the public boat ramp on the other side (the west side) of the Port Allen Lock and Dam of the Intercostal Waterway (RBD 228.4).

 

Don’t leave your vessel unattended at Glass Beach, and not recommended for overnight camping.  Baton Rouge is a big city with all the problems big cities have, use common sense safety practices.  Your best option for resupply is to leave one person at the ramp and the other walk into town for whatever you need.  If you are staying for any length in Baton Rouge, remove your vessel from the water and take it with you. 

 

After Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans dozens of refugees made Glass Beach their home, and it became a tent city full of the homeless huddled under blue tarps and ringed around driftwood fires.  The city has since run the homeless out and keeps the area mowed to discourage its use in that way (mowing being the only upkeep that the city undertakes of the ramp).

 

229 LBD Old Municipal Dock

Directly below the Glass Beach boat ramp sits an abandoned monument of crumbling concrete and graffiti. The old Baton Rouge Municipal Dock was completed in 1926 and once handled ocean going cargo with a 12 ton locomotive crane. However, by 1968 the dock was outdated and its function replaced by the Docks on the west bank. Just recently, the old Municipal Dock has been included in development plans for the Baton Rouge Water Campus. The campus is a project designed to be a world class facility for research, design and engineering of river systems and flood control, desperately needed in south Louisiana. As part of the new campus, the Old Municipal Dock has been planned as the new office building of the Coastal Restoration and Protection Authority. Be on the look out for construction and big changes in the coming years. 


229.1 RBD Greater Baton Rouge Dock No.1 Wharf: Community Coffee

If the wind is blowing directly across the river when you are loading in or taking out at Glass Beach you might detect the distinct aroma of roasting coffee beans.  This is not a delusion.  Amidst all of the other caustic smells swarming the general atmosphere the famous Community Coffee Company is adding the reassuring pleasures of fresh roasted beans to the mix.  It is America’s largest family-owned coffee business, and is definitely a SoLa standard.  To be sure, you’ll find Community Coffee through the Deep South, and the closer to SoLa you get, the stronger it gets.  The Chicory “New Orleans” Blend is my favorite, but the Breakfast Blend, Cafe Especial, and Dark Roast are all good also.  Started in Baton Rouge in 1919, touts itself as the oldest family owned and operated retail coffee brand in America.  Be sure to grab a cup if you get a chance and make sure it’s got chicory.  Or give the smaller Baton Rouge coffee brand, River Road Coffees, a try.  Both make great beans!  Coffee has been one of the major imports entering the country through the Mississippi River for centuries.

 

From the Community Coffee website: “Community Coffee grew out of a small country store started in 1919 on the north edge of Baton Rouge by Norman “Cap” Saurage and his family to serve their neighbors.  Because Cap was working alongside his family, and because he was serving his neighbors, he knew his coffee had to be the best-tasting, highest quality coffee possible. By 1919, Cap had discovered a secret blend that was richer, bolder and smoother than any coffee around. He named his popular coffee “Community Coffee” to honor his friends and neighbors. It was a coffee for his community.  Four generations later, the Saurage Family is still selecting, roasting and perfecting great-tasting blends for coffee lovers everywhere.”

 

How to Brew a Great-Tasting Pot of River-Rat Coffee:

Community Coffee is the preferred brand for river-rats, especially when brewed over a willow fire cowboy coffee style, using filtered Mississippi River water.  Here’s how we do it for the thickest, tastiest and strongest river-rat coffee possible.  Pour 2-3” grounds into an enamel coffeepot (or regular pot).  Boil water separately over willow fire.  Pour boiling water over grounds.  Stir 3 times counter-clockwise, and 3 times clockwise.  Let sit 5 minutes.  Stir again, first 3 times counter-clockwise, and then 3 times clockwise.  Let sit 1 minute.  It is now ready to pour!  Fill your cups, and re-top the coffee pot with fresh boiling water.  You can repeat the refill three times before the coffee grounds get too weak.

 

228.3 RBD Intercostal Waterway (Port Allen Lock & Dam)

The Intercostal Waterway cuts through Port Allen and heads southwestward towards Morgan City, and from there points further west along the Louisiana and then Texas coastlines.   You have to lock through the levee to get to the canal.  There are a number of options from here on down to the Gulf for exiting east and west along other portions of the Intercostal Waterway, and interconnecting canals.  Paddlers have been known to paddle down one of these options for destinations off the big river.  But be ready for a long flatwater slog down straightline canals with nothing but barges, workboats and other commercial traffic for company, and small boats busy as bees.  Your bankside companions will be a long parade of herons, egrets, pelicans, gators and turtles.


The GIWW: The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway connects to the river at mile 228.5 at the Port Allen Lock, RBD.  If you prefer to reach the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Atchafalaya River instead of the Mississippi, you missed your best chance days upstream at the Old River Control Structure.  But here is another exit from the Chemical Corridor into “Cajun Country.”  Lock through and paddle West then South for about a day.  If you’re feeling ambitious, the GIWW runs from Mexico to New Jersey.  (Mike Beck)

 

The 84-feet high concrete structure is 1,202 feet long. The lock moves ships, large and small, by lowering or lifting crafts up to 45 feet to connecting waterways. Lock operation for navigation consists of equalizing the water level in the lock chamber with either the river or canal stage enabling the vessel to sail up or down the river or canal safely.  Contact the Lock & Dam at 2101 Ernest Wilson Drive (PO Box 499) Port Allen, LA 70767, or call (225) 343-3752.