|In Louisiana, the area south of I-10 and west of New Orleans is a whole 'nudder t'ing. Over the years we've made periodic pilgrimages and would be hard-pressed to come up with a part of this great country that we are more fond of. Through hardship and isolation, a society singular to this region has|
main factor in the formation of this distinictive culture
came from the Acadians -- French colonists who were run out
of Canada during the The Seven Years' War in Europe. As the
hostilities spilled over into North America, the
British subjects of Nova Scotia decided that the French settlers
were no longer welcome.
In what became known as The
The swampy coastal area of Louisiana was almost uninhabited back then, home only to a few clans of the Attakapas Tribe known for their nasty propensity to eat their enemies.
The tough, wayward
refugees settled into this perilous landscape. Carving out an existence
meant embracing the water as a partner -- the
|During our previous visits we hadn't had the chance to wade out into these waters but this time we were going in. Not literally of course, since we didn't want to be an alligator appetizer, we figured we'd use a boat. The Atchafalaya Swamp, largest in the USA, runs right through the heart of Cajun country between Lafayette and|
|At the western end of the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge on Interstate 10, an eighteen mile causeway above the cyprus trees and gators, we met Ernest Couret with his little sixteen foot swamp boat. After the How y'all are? greetings we climbed aboard and headed out into the dense, wet wilderness.|
we were deep enough into the swamp to be completely secluded from
any signs of modern life. Winding through the tunnels of heavily
hanging Spanish moss, Ernest pointed out the flora and fauna along
the way: eagles, osprey, egrets, beaver, gators, turtles, ducks,
blue heron, comerant, cyprus, mangroves, willows and on this spring
day, all sorts of wild flowers.
One critter we'd never seen before was sighted frequently along the bayous. Giant rodents called nutria were hanging out side by each with the beavers on the logs and dry patches. We'd always figured that the R.O.U.S. (Rodents Of Unusual Size) featured in the movie "The Princess Bride" were make believe, but they are real and they are thick back in them there marshes.
|The Atchafalaya Swamp is a combination of wetlands and river delta where the Atchafalaya River meets the Gulf of Mexico. A thousand years ago the Mississippi River flowed through the Atchafalaya as its channel naturally moved about the delta. Periodic flooding was lifeblood to this ecosystem, bringing much|
|When the oil industry arrived in the 1930s, the economy got a needed boost but scars were left in the process. Canals for transporting equipment and products were dug throughout the basin, causing massive erosion and further weakening the wetlands. Once finished with their business, the remnants were simply left behind as the drilling moved offshore into deeper and deeper water.|
As harsh and hostile as swamps may look, they are easily harmed and slow to recover. Recently some progress toward saving the marshes has been made through controlled flooding and conservation efforts but all of this may be lost in one fell swoop.
Suddenly the most grave threat the region has ever faced is floating in a giant black slick out in the gulf.
southern shores of this spendid sanctuary are already suffering
but the interior is likely doomed should a hurricane come
its way. The wetlands could be inundated with oil for many
miles inland if wind and storm surge carry the greasy goop
deep into the swamp. The devastation
will be unimaginable.
As we mentioned before, the Cajun culture is completely intertwined with the water. Their livelihood depends on the shrimp, crawfish, crabs, oysters
In an area
with a long, harsh history, this chapter could be the worst.
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