The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail
235.8 LBD Bayou Baton Rouge
The bayou running through Devil’s Swamp is not named on the 2007 USACE river chart but is named Bayou Baton Rouge on most other maps. Confusingly, the USACE charts name a different waterbody Bayou Baton Rouge which is called Monte Sano Bayou on most other maps (see LBD 233.9 Monte Sano Bayou). For paddler’s purposes, we will adopt the name Bayou Baton Rouge for the one here, coming out of Devil’s Swamp, and Monte Sano Bayou for the one further downstream, the last tributary of the Lower Mississippi, which enters the river at 233.7 LBD near Formosa Plastics.
235.2 LBD Baton Rouge Harbor
Also called the “Baton Rouge Barge Canal.” Not really a harbor in the way most people would think of a harbor, but merely a series of industrial docks, none of which provide public access. The boat ramp shown here on the USACE 2007 maps is not publicly accessible. It is part of an old Baton Rouge Landfill property which is behind locked gates. Interestingly the city of Baton Rouge collects and sells gas generated by the decomposing trash in the landfill to the nearby Deltech Corporation chemical plant that uses it for power generation. Unless you are on a mission to visit the Baton Rouge landfill, you will want to avoid this area. There is nothing public or egalitarian here. To call this a harbor might be wishful thinking.
235.2 LBD Baton Rouge North Wastewater Treatment Plant Outfall
A small bayou flowing parallel with the river from Southern University meets the river at the mouth of the Baton Rouge Harbor. In times of low water, this land is a beautiful sandy point covered in willows leading all the way up to the bluffs at Southern University. Unfortunately, this bayou also serves as the discharge point for the North Baton Rouge Waste Water Treatment Plant. This facility has had a history of problems and has been documented to discharge large amounts of sewage into the river. Avoid contact with the water in this area if you notice an unpleasant smell or dark discharge flowing from this canal. (LMRK)
236 – 233 Mulatto Bend (Wilkerson Point)
Mulatto Bend makes a severe obtuse angle around Wilkerson Point that turns the river “about-right” so that you enter paddling slightly northeasterly and exit due south with an incredible heart-stopping view downstream. Paddlers brace yourself for this paradigm change. Gone are the endless trees, back channels and sandbars of the wild Mississippi above. Hullo Chemical Corridor! This is the Baton Rouge Crossroads. Mulatto Bend is so tight, with the added challenge of getting through the bridge pylons below, that big downstreamers will go into the flanking maneuver to safely negotiate. If there is no other traffic, upstreamers could follow any line of travel from hugging the inside of the bend RBD around Point Place Landing, to staying far left bank below Southern University. Monitor VHF Channel 67 and be ready for anything and everything.
After you come around Wilkerson Point you will be looking due south under the US 190 (“Old Bridge”) down into the throbbing heart of the port of Baton Rouge, with long lines of wharfing, fleeted barges, and the I-10 Bridge (“New Bridge”) below, and then more wharfing and grain elevators further downstream right bank descending. A monstrous sea-going tanker or two will probably be docked at the always busy ExxonMobil Refinery, behind which the Capital of the State of Louisiana rises tall and austere, capped with something that looks like a lighthouse.
Seasoned Baton Rouge kayaker Mike Beck recommends staying right bank descending around Wilkerson Point, and on underneath the bridge. “As you come out of Thomas Point, paddling east, you will see SU at the top of a grassy bluff. Now, circa mile 235, at Free Negro (Wilkerson) Point, is a good time to get out of the channel and hug the West (RBD) bank in shallow water until you are downstream from the US 190 bridge. To learn why, just look at the battered condition of the old Kaiser Aluminum dock (LBD). The descending approach to the US 190 bridge is a barge pusher’s least favorite stretch of water, featuring a tight, blind turn into the face of an unforgiving obstacle (the bridge). Kind of like the situation at Vicksburg, only worse, and a good place to let the tows have the entire channel to themselves.”
According to Marion Braggs: “Slaves in the New Orleans area sometimes earned or were given their freedom. Often the freedmen were mulattos, the offspring of white and negro unions. One group of these freedmen established a community of their own on the west bank of the Mississippi just above Baton Rouge, and river pilots called the area Mulatto Bend. River pilots were not as a group any more unkind or insensitive than other people, and at the time they named the point where the community was located, the term they used was acceptable to the whole population. They called it Free Nigger Point, never dreaming that more than a century later the name would be found so obnoxious that it would be wiped from the navigation charts. The new name of the old point is Wilkinson Point.”