Monday, May 19, 2014

Starting Up the Mississippi-Baton Rouge to Simmesport/Three Rivers RA

May 1, 2014-Greenville, Miss.-K-

All is well with us.  We have finally started our trip up the Mississippi, and this is the first days drive.  We are so excited to be starting something we have never done and something we have always wanted to do, which is to be following the spring north. It will be really interesting to watch the changes in foliage as we head north. For some reason, we set the map up on the route we actually took, and when we preview the embedded version, Google has changed it to what Google Maps thinks it should be when you paste it into the blog-frustrating! There's two large loops north of I-10 that we actually did follow, at times on the levee top, where the map shows us further west of the river.

We left Abbeville, LA on April 15th and headed east and north and in order to avoid Baton Rouge.  It wasn't too long when we came upon the Mississippi levee that we would follow all day.  Unfortunately the views of the river are nil because of that.  Mostly they are used for grazing cows and horses.  But the grass is lush.  There are huge fields of winter wheat that will be harvested around the end of May after which they will plant soybeans. The wheat adds nitrogen to the soil for the soybeans. Corn has just been planted and is about 3" high.

Cows grazing on the levee.

We really wanted to get up on the levees, but most of the access roads are posted, so it wasn't an option. However, we finally found a way to get over it and on the water for a short spell.

Watch that first step of the deck!

The water was a bit high from all the snows up north.

Yippee we made it to the river!!!

Winter wheat field on Bean Field Road, near Simmesport, LA


Lone church and cemetery carved out of a soon to be planted field.

I hope so.

We ended our first day at Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area. VERY interesting area, mainly run by the Army Corps of Engineers. We had a free camp spot to ourselves for most of our stay. (We did get invaded by a cranky fisherman and his wife, but then, I'm cranky most of the time too, so we just sat and glared at each other-well, I sat-he leaned on the tailgate of his truck). The kayaking there would have been great, but for the wind, so we did some driving around and checking things out, as well as finishing the installation of a fourth solar panel on the roof. The road past the campground (Bean Field Road) continued on into the gigantic winter wheat field in the pics above-the wheat was almost above the car and was a beautiful spring green color. There was an ACOE worker that visited us every day, and we learned a lot from him about the whole Three Rivers system he worked in. It turns out that 3 rivers all almost come together there-The Mississippi, the Atchafalaya and the Red. This is where it got interesting-back in the 1800's, Captain Shreve, a riverboat captain and whom Shreveport is named after, decided to cut a channel to eliminate a long switchback in the Mississippi and make a straighter riverbed. Then, in the early 1900's, the ACOE built levees and lock systems all along the Mississippi, and the combination of the two started caused the Mississippi to start using the Atchafalaya drainage and begin to abandon it's existing course from there down through Baton Rouge and on to New Orleans. The ramifications of that change were enormous if it were allowed to continue, between the petroleum industry that had built up along the lower river that used it for water in manufacturing and for shipping, the major cities that relied on it for drinking water, and the huge amount of agriculture down here.

In the early 1950's they built most of what exists today-some channels to let the Red river into the Atchafalaya as it always did, and some other dams and channels to insure the Mississippi stays in it's existing bed, along with a lock for barge tows to move back and forth between the Atchafalaya/Red and the Mississippi. Later flooding, I believe in the 70's, cause them to construct more flow control dams beyond where we were staying, which we checked out on a drive, and again when we left, as they were on our route.
 Camp at Three Rivers. The lock (below) is on our left, about 1/4 mile away

Adding panel #4, which gives us about 25 amps of recharging power on sunny days & about 4 to 5 on the cloudy ones.  

The lock on the Atchafalaya side-they lower the tows down to the Mississippi, and bring the empty barges back through the same way.

A tow moving into the lock.