Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Atchafalaya Heritage , Swamp Lingo of the Commercial Fisherman, Hunters and Trappers

Know Atchafalaya Heritage 

Understand the  Lingo
of the  Commercial Fisherman, Hunters, and Trappers

The Bayous, streams/waterways, canals, and sloughs are the Veins of the  Atchafalaya.

Part of every young commercial fisherman's, trapper and hunters heritage in the Atchafalaya Basin is learning the lingo used by the old swampers to describe certain areas of the swamp.  It goes without saying that the lower Atchafalaya Basin in total is just a large network of integrated waterways.

However,  sometimes the swampers will identify smaller networks of integrated waterways and use a special term and or name to group the waterways into one name.

These smaller networks of integrated waterways usually develop a name that may be different from some of the individual waterways and/or less specific in the network.  Typically it is a short way to make a general reference to an area.

Thus, when a term like, I passed through the  ‘Cutoff’  is spoken other fishermen immediately know where / what they are talking about.

There are many of these named smaller networks of integrated waterways areas in the Atchafalaya, known to the swampers. L.O.L. but not known to United  States Geological  Service, responsible for maps in the  Atchafalaya and or to the weekend warriors who travel the Spillway.

In the  Bayou Pigeon – Grand  Lake  Vector of the basin. Right off the bat, I can think of “The Road”, The  “Cutoff”, “The Reed”, “Gilmore Road”, “The  Skiddy”, etc..

Location of  Study Area - Bayou  Pigeon  Sector

This is a  description/history about one of those areas, known as ‘The Cutoff” inside the Bayou Pigeon sector. Known only to the few who remember, old Bayou Pigeon...

1892 – 1906 Map of  Grand  Lake - Bayou Pigeon Vector of the  Atchafalaya  Basin 

Note: No man-made canals  are identified in that time period …only random natural waterways

1935 USGS 15' Pigeon quadrangle  map

Close up of 1935 USGS 15' Pigeon quadrangle  map Study Area

1960's  USGS 15' Pigeon Quadrangle  Map  highlighting  the Study Area of this posting

Commonly  accepted/understood Route of  Turkey Bayou by local commercial fishermen

In summary; Know the Heritage, 'The  Cutoff ' in 2017

All constructive comments, corrections well accepted.  Legrange@cox.net

Inherit, preserve and protect the  Atchafalaya. You cannot preserve and protect what you don't know.

Enjoy ! 

Monday, September 18, 2017

October is Atchafalaya month, Celebrate the Atchafalaya


Whereas, the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area is one of 49 nationally distinctive heritage areas designated by the United States Congress;

Whereas, the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area contains the Atchafalaya Basin, the largest river swamp in America;

Whereas, the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area encompasses 14 parishes reflecting the unique culture evolving from life in the Atchafalaya Basin;

Whereas, the Atchafalaya Basin is considered the most productive swamp in the world and contributes substantially to the economy of Louisiana;

Whereas, the Atchafalaya Basin houses important wetlands that serve as buffers during storm surges;

Whereas, the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area offers exceptional opportunities for education and recreation;

Whereas the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area encourages and promote recreational and educational activities during October to raise awareness of the valuable resources located within the Area;

Therefore, we do hereby proclaim October 2017,  Celebrate the Atchafalaya month.

Know  Atchafalaya  Heritage

The Atchafalaya Basin is Part of the Mississippi River Geomorphology

The Atchafalaya River Basin lies at the very bottom of the Mississippi Watershed. The Atchafalaya River Basin is a sub component of the Mississippi Alluvial Valley
(MAV) ecosystem

Geomorphology is the study of landforms, their processes, form, and sediments at the surface of the Earth.  River basin s have a particularly geomorphology, Tributaries, Alluvial Valley, Deltaic plain and a receiving basin.  Just remember, water runs downhill and you will be alright.

The Mississippi River, with its sand and silt, has created most of Louisiana. The Mississippi floodplain is more than 100 miles wide. The Atchafalaya Basin lies at the very bottom of the Mississippi Watershed. It is part of the Mississippi’s lower river deltaic plain.

Located in south-central Louisiana, the Atchafalaya River Basin extends from the confluence of the Mississippi, Red and Atchafalaya rivers, near Simmesport, to the Gulf of Mexico near Morgan City. Situated in the heart of this natural basin is the 833,000-acre Atchafalaya Basin Floodway. The floodway is about 15 miles wide and confined by the East and West Atchafalaya Basin Protection levees.

Location Of  Atchafalaya  Basin

Limits of Geomorphic Atchafalaya Basin

Natural Atchafalaya Basin to the Atchafalaya Natural Heritage Area
- Atchafalaya Floodway to Natural Atchafalaya Basin

Atchafalaya National Heritage Area to Atchafalaya Floodway

The Atchafalaya Basin is the largest contiguous wetland and swamp in the United States. Located in south-central Louisiana, it is a combination of wetlands and river delta area where the Atchafalaya River and the Gulf of Mexico converge.


Officially, the State of Louisiana pronounces Atchafalaya – (ah-chafa-laya) It is the English version of a Choctaw Indian word “hacha falaia,” which means long river.

The pronunciation of Atchafalaya is somewhat troublesome because it is the French spelling of an Indian word. In French "ch" is pronounced as "sh" is in English. Thus "tch" is used in French to denote the English "ch" sound. Therefore, some linguist say correct pronunciation of Atchafalaya is as though it were spelled "acha falaya.“

The Atchafalaya Basin is one of the nation’s last great river swamps. It is also a principle floodway of the Mississippi River and Tributaries Project. The New Orleans District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, maintains 449 miles of federal levees, 14 pumping stations, 15 drainage structures and four navigation locks.  Their job is overseeing the basin and ensure it is able to remove flood waters and keep basin channels open for commercial barges and small boats.

Know the Heritage …

The Atchafalaya Basin is a term that is used in multiple contexts, a Natural Wetland Basin, a Floodway, and a Cultural Heritage Area.

Friday, February 17, 2017

How did the Cajuns find Pierre Part ?

Le bon Voisin'age (Neighborliness /  Connection)  between Bayou Pigeon, La.  & Pierre Part LA.

Even though Bayou Pigeon is in Iberville Parish,   most everyone  knows the Cajun residents of Bayou Pigeon came here from Pierre Part, La.  

Thus Bayou Pigeon has more  in  common with Pierre Part than with any other community in our home Iberville Parish.

Since most people know the Cajuns  are descendants of Acadians  from Nova Scotia, and the story  of the 'Grand Derangement'.   

But that does  not answer  the questions of the inquiring mind, How did the Cajuns  get  to Pierre Part?

The rest of the story:

The  very first Acadians to arrive in the Louisiana territory consisted of 21 people in 4 families. 

They came in 1763,  and  settled on the west bank of the Mississippi in "the area of the vacant lands between [Nicolas] Verret's Plantation and [Jacques] Jacquelin's Cow Ranch," near the present site of Lagan, St. James Parish..  Here they created a little Nouvelle-Acadie of their own called The First Acadian Coast.   This settlement preceded the Bayou Teche Cajun settlement by at least one year.

More Acadians arrived in the immediate area  in 1765 /1766, and settled above the First Acadian Coast at  present day Donaldsonville, on Bayou Lafourche, in Ascension Parish..   This was called  the "Second Acadian Coast".  A third Acadian coast was “The Maryland Acadians,” who settled at St.. Gabriel, Iberville Parish.. 

The Acadian Coasts are  not "coasts" as one would think of the term today as land along the seashore of an ocean.  A coast  by definition is "the land near the shore“  but in this case, the shore is the land along the Mississippi River.. During the 18th and 19th centuries the term coast was used to describe the distinct settlements situated just above New Orleans along the Mississippi River's edge.. There are naturally two coasts. The left coast or left bank,  was the land located on your left-hand side if traveling down river, the east bank, and the right coast or right bank was the land located on your right-hand side if traveling down river , the west bank.  “ The Coasts,”   in this context are named for the first settlers to establish along their shores. 

These new settlers  were called 'Les petits habitants'  French  for  Small Farmers.

In August 1770, a  Spanish census …of the Acadian settlers in the district, (1 st & 2 nd)  Acadian  Coast) and counted 84 families.  

In 1777… the Spanish governor counted… 61 men, 67 women, 128 boys… 92 girls, 1,178 horned cattle, 158 horses, 80 sheep, 882 swine, 130 arms, 1 free savage, 12 goats, and 3 kid

Explanatory  note: A pieux is a board.  The earliest were hand rived were of cypress.  The Cajuns brought with them to Louisiana  many skills, incluing all  aspects of  farming. Carpentry was one of them, fencing  for the  farm was important.  The cajuns had  two kinds of pieux fences, and both are depicted in the sketch.  One was of vertical boards, and it could be a small picket fence around the house, are a very tall one around a vegetable garden (to keep out chickens).  The other pieux fence had pieux boards driven into the ground, and holes were dug into them (often with a special froe).  Then horizontal pieux were placed in the holes, as seen around the field near the house. 

After the new  USA  completed  the Louisiana Purchase, new American immigrants, began to move into the area. These Americans had money to spend on land, and they began to push / buy out  the small and poor Acadian farmers, “Les petits habitants" from the good front lands along the Mississippi River and Bayou Lafourche. 

The Bayou Lafourche Acadians did not to resist these new immigrants too much, the Americans were willing to pay a good price to the Acadians for their small farms and they distrusted the new Anglo goverment. After Grand  derangment they distrusted any goverment!  Instead of taking the money and moving or looking for better ground to the north or to the  Bayou Teche  area , the  Lafourche Basin Acadians would fall back closer to the east edge of the Atchafalaya Swamp, 

This  was  documentd by Pitot, James (Pacques-françois), Spanish Cabildo Ward Commissioner of New Orleans; 1802 -1804. He wrote a critique of Spanish rule  of  Louisiana colony - 1796 to 1802 for the  French who had taken over from the  Spanish.  This was before the Louisiana Purchase He observed that La-fourche Parish was alreadying enjoying an increased rate of growth. His description of the region reveals the changing complexion of Acadian  coast settlement along Bayou Lafourche ,as English  speaking planters began to move into the region the  'Les petits habitants' withdrew into the further reaches of the swamps”.  The  Les petits habitants recognized there was some opportunity for agriculture in the Pierre Part area, ie.,  along the narrow strips of ridge lands along the Bayous. 

Leading to the south  and west of  Bayou  Lafourche several smaller bayous provided ingress to areas around Lake Verret, Grand River and Lake Palourde.

The Acadian “les petits habitants”displaced  by the plantation system followed two migratory patterns; (

From the Upper Lafourche Valley to the Atchafalaya interior , ie., Pierre Part, Belle River, lower Grand River area, 4 Mile Bayou and Bayou Boeuf.  

The Lower Lafourche  Valley , to Paincourtville, Napolenville, Houma, Raceland area.

The Route to Pierre Part;   

At the Village of Port Barrow on the banks of Bayou Lafourche slightly below Donalsonville, there was a  cordelle road / path,  it was either along  Bayou  McCall,  a small slough , to the source of  Grand  Bayou, which led to Lake Verret. 

By 1815 a small settlement of families, existed on the west banks of Lake Verret, where Bayou Pierre Part flows into the Lake Verret. These  first settlements  were placed on the *brules, surrounded by swamp.  Brules’ were  high natural ridge  cleared and burned… ‘brules” French  ‘for burnt’. 

Between 1780 and 1803 the Attakapas Canal (pronounced tuck-a-paw) was completed, ie., a  man made canal made by extending a natural bayou  that was connected  to Lake Verret with Bayou Lafourche.  This route  also  provided a shorter route  to the lower Atchafalaya Basin ( Morgan City and the area of Bayou Teche to the west than Bayou Plaquemine.

Pierre Part / Belle River continued to grow because there was some opportunity for commercial agriculture along the narrow strips of ridge lands along lower Grand River. Several large Commercial  sugar plantation were started by several successful  Acadian  planters  from Upper  Bayou  Lafourche.

It was not long however before the vast majority Acadians  Petite Habitants recognized the vast natural resources  that existed in the Atchafalaya River Basin were easier to harvest than  eking out a living farming.  They turned their livelihood to the swamps. By 1820 they were shifting their living from subsistence farming to fishing, trapping , hunting, moss picking, and logging cypress trees.  

They came to be  called 'petits habitats de marecage',  Farmers of the  Swamp . 

Because of the isolation and ruggedness of the Atchafalaya Swamp this group of Cajuns became semi- isolated from  the new  Americans  and even their cousins living on the levee lands along Bayou Lafourche. They did not intermarry with other ethnic groups, therefore Pierre part, Belle River Lake  Verrett communities maintained the traditional French Acadian culture and language much longer than their cousins. 

Today, Pierre Part  is one of the small pockets of Cajun French speaking communities left in  Louisiana. 

Preserve the  Heritage...


Selected  Reference :

Bergeron, Maida Owens, "Language Maintenance and Shift in a Bayou Community." (1978). LSU Historical Dissertations and Theses. 8174.