Heart of Louisiana: The Lorrain Bridge

Published: Mar. 24, 2015 at 9:32 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 25, 2015 at 2:25 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A wooden bridge across Bayou Lacassine connects Jeff Davis and Calcasieu parishes near the small town of Hayes. The first span was put here to service a sawmill and area farmers, and it became a shortcut for cattle drives.

It was during World War II when former state Rep. Jimmy Martin went to work herding cattle on three-day drives from Cameron Parish to the stockyard in his hometown of Welsh.

"The lead horseman, the one up in the front, he kind of controls how the cattle moves," Martin said. "If he gets too far ahead of them, they'll jump, and most of it was marsh back there, so then we'd have to get them get the cows back and everything."

Martin said he and the other cowboys had to be especially careful when they crossed the narrow wooden Lorrain Bridge.

"You didn't want them to move too fast because the bridge would rock, so you'd - the lead horseman would try to pace the cows so they wouldn't go too fast and make the bridge come apart," Martin said.

The original span had a drawbridge to allow larger boats to pass. That was damaged by a ddrag lineand then replaced with another wooden crossing. But time took a toll on the old bridge. More than 100 years after the first span was built, the bridge was rotting and was about to be torn down. Then the community rallied to save it.

You see, the bridge had become more than just a bayou crossing. It brought generations of people to this scenic spot along Bayou Lacassine. Descendants of the Lorrain family that built the first bridge were part of effort to rebuild it.

"People came to me and said, 'No, no, no, this is where we have our memories,'" said Pauline Poole. 'We've had our weddings, this is where we met, this is where we made love, this is where we first went fishing.'"

Poole led efforts by the Lorrain Bridge Association to raise nearly $300,000 to help pay for a new bridge, which opened in 2004. Now, there is a parish campground and boat launch next to the crossing.

"They meet families out here, they meet their friends out here, it's just - it's a wonderful meeting place and memory place. And it's beautiful," Poole said.

The Lorrain Bridge is near the town of Hayes, south of I-10 between Jennings and Lake Charles.

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