Strange features on a Louisiana map show evidence of land lost

Strange features on a Louisiana map show evidence of land lost

(WVUE) - The Louisiana map unlocks all sorts of stories about the past and the conversion of land to water.

Southwest of the town of Jean Lafitte, it depicts what appear to be two long lakes. What the casual observer would not know is they are not lakes at all, but bayous.

Bayou Rigolettes and its slightly larger twin, Bayou Perot, have swelled. Perot, the larger of them, stretches nearly a mile across.

As the Louisiana coast, cut off from the Mississippi River, eroded over the decades, the banks of bayous retreated. Today, Lafitte lies sandwiched between the bayous and another body of water to the southeast, "The Pen."

One hundred years ago, people could walk across the pen. Like many other strange features on the Louisiana map, The Pen was a farm - until the levees failed. Today, it measures 2 miles across and 4 miles long in a mostly rectangular shape, butting right up against the small levee protecting homes and businesses.

With little land separating this spot and Barataria Bay, the Gulf of Mexico knocks on Lafitte's doorstep during tropical events, or even just a strong south wind.

In Lafourche Parish, outside Golden Meadow, the map depicts a group of nearly symmetrical ponds that seem out of place in a marshy area.

"This was actually a farmed area," explained Windell Curole, General Manager of the South Lafourche Levee District.

Decades ago, Curole said spoil banks, where the owners built levees, "started flooding and it got over-topped."

Eventually, the owners gave up trying to maintain the levees and the sea reclaimed the land.

However, not all of these stories are ancient history.

Delta Farms south of Lake Salvador was a working sugar cane farm when Lyndon Johnson was President.

"Where you were growing 3 years stubble sugar cane back in 1968, today you catch red fish and bass in this."

Tulane University historical geographer Richard Campanella notes nature makes for a less precise craftsmen.

"Perfectly straight lines and 90 degree angles are amazingly rare in nature," Campanella said.

He points out nature moves in complex curves and fluid and dynamic patterns.

"Nothing spells this out more than deltas, which are all about fresh water and sediment splaying out, salt water moving up and down," Campanella said.

"The next time you fly out of the airport and look out over the Louisiana coastal plain and you see straight lines and 90 degree angles, those are the fingerprints of  300 years of humanity here."

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