The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail
231.9 LBD Sunrise, Louisiana
Sunrise was a small town of about 9 “city blocks“ between LA Hwy 1 and the Mississippi River Road at around mile 231.9 LBD. Surrounded by cane fields it had its beginnings in property purchased by former slave Alexander Banes from a white plantation owner. When a railroad ferry located near Sunrise in 1906 it came into its own as a town of a few hundred households. It was a mixed community with residents fondly remembering black and white residents living together in harmony at a time when the same couldn’t be said of many other communities in the south. “This was the oldest integrated neighborhood in the state. We went to segregated schools but we still played together,” said Eloise Ferdinand Jack, a former Sunrise resident interviewed by The Riverside Reader in 1996
An oil refinery was constructed adjacent to the Sunrise community in 1972 and acquired by Placid Refining in 1974. It was said that Placid took low grade crude oil that the Exxon refinery across the river wouldn’t take. In 1979 Amid complaints of decreased quality of life of the nearby residents; Placid began buying out the resident’s closest to the refinery. By 1985 mainly black residents remained in Sunrise who felt that racial inequity was preventing them from being bought out. In 1990 241 remaining residents of Sunrise filed suit against Placid. Eventually the remaining residents of Sunrise negotiated buyouts with Placid and the town was completely gone by the mid 1990’s. Only the street grid between Placid and Enterprise Products Operating LLC (the 2 docks LBD across from the big ExxonMobil dock) and a historical marker remain to remind us of the town of Sunrise. You will read a number of stories like this in the Baton Rouge to the Gulf Section. (LMRK)
A historical marker sponsored by former residents of Sunrise is located just over the levee on River Road where the town used to be. The marker reads:
“A place (not a time of day) of green and golden pages turned slowly enough, to hear the bees whispering in the clover and smell the season of the river in the fog and dust. It must be there still in the trees and the spaces where people live and children play in barefoot memories.”
“In 1874 Alexander Banes, a former slave, purchased property which he sold to Sunrise Realty Co. in 1905. About 1906 the Missouri-Pacific Railroad began using a train-ferry to cross the Mississippi River, causing a great spurt in the population of Sunrise. This marker is a reminder of a community that has gone on, but remains in the happy memories of her descendants.”
230 LBD Welcome to Baton Rouge: Downtown Riverfront
Baton Rouge, the capital of Louisiana, was founded on top of the 50-foot Istrouma Bluff on the east bank of the Mississippi River, the last of the Mississippi Loess Bluffs. This last bluff coincides with the edge of the Pleistocene Escarpment. Beyond this point there are no bluffs, and all of the land you see was created in the last 7,000 years by the annual flood and sediment accretion process.
The riverfront here is an easy and convenient way for paddlers to access downtown Baton Rouge on foot, but use common sense safety practices. Originally called “Istrouma” by the native people, Baton Rouge, means “red stick” and refers to a pole adorned with animal carcasses placed on the high ground in Baton Rouge marking the dividing line between the tribal lands of the Houmas to the north and the Bayou Goula to the south. This marker is thought to actually have been on Scott’s Bluff near the present location of Southern University (as previously described — go to that listing at LBD 235).
Once you maneuver past the tankers at ExxonMobil and downstream past Seariver Maritime, and then between fleeted barges at Capital Fleet, paddlers are welcomed to the capital city of Louisiana with the words BATON ROUGE in giant red lettering set on the riverfront seawall with a big red Fleur-de-Lis in between. We’re not certain who these words are written for, because this is not the place to make a landing, unless you’re just stopping for a quick run around downtown with no intentions of pulling out or camping. Not a good access point to meet your shuttle. (Long walk over railroad tracks to nearest parking). You could make a quick rendezvous here if you only needed to meet someone for a quick hand-off or change of crew. But you shouldn’t leave your vessel here unattended. (NOTE: your best land access is from Glass Beach Boat Ramp, downstream 1.5 miles RBD just past the I-10 bridge. See below for complete description).
Nearby over the seawall is found the Shaw Center for the Arts, Poor Boy Lloyd’s, The State Capitol, State Welcome Center, State Library, State Capital Park, the Old Governor’s Mansion, and the Old Louisiana State Capitol (that Mark Twain found so offensive — he thought it should be dynamited!). WIFI can be found at the library, and most of the downtown cafes. For water resupply try your luck with the first friendly looking business you come across. The nearest grocery is Downtown Grocery on the corner of 3rd and Florida Blvd. Downtown Grocery is small with a limited inventory but should work for necessities. A larger grocery is planned for the Downtown area in 2015. Hardware and boat repair supplies as well as paddles, pfds, and camping gear are all available in Baton Rouge but will require traveling further from the river to at least the mid city area. See below for current list (2015).