This blog originates on the banks of the Atchafalaya River, in Louisiana. It proposes to share the things that happen on and by the river as the seasons progress. As the river changes from quiet, warm, slow flow to rises of eighteen feet or more, there are changes in the lives of the birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles that use the river. And the mood of the river changes with the seasons. I propose to note and comment on these things.

My Photo
Location: Butte La Rose, Louisiana, United States

I transitioned a few years ago from a career as a water-pollution control biologist. I want to do this blog to stay in touch with a world outside my everyday surroundings, whatever they may be. I like open-minded company and the discussion of ideas. Photo by Brad Moon.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

River Stages

Questions come up about the river and what the stages mean, especially in practical terms. Most folks know that the river has an annual cycle – varying only in degree of water level variation and length of time for each season. There is high water every spring and low water every fall. How high and how low is seldom predictable. Gauges to measure the real-time river stage exist in several places, but the one many people use as the standard against which to plan is the Butte La Rose gauge. The river has been measured by this instrument to have been at a low of 0.33 feet in1976 and a high of 27.28 feet in1973. Most of us remember 1973, when the river almost absorbed the Mississippi. There is no BLR reading for the 1927 flood because the BLR gauge was established in 1928. But 1973 was the highest. We live on the high bank of the river at Butte La Rose in such a location that the water would have to be 31 feet to get into our house. By the time it did that it would have flooded the highway to BLR (3177) to a depth of six feet or more. It would mean a 1.5 mile trip by boat to get to our house. The lowest we have experienced was 0.5 feet in 2002 during the big drought, the highest was 21.0 feet in 1999. When you think of that possible difference in elevation (20.5 feet) in one year, you get some idea of why you don’t see many functional docks along the river. Those that allow that degree of change cost a fortune. Without constant tending during drops or rises, even those docks get wrecked. My dock has survived for six years because I don’t leave for more than a couple days during the spring. Sudden changes in level of three or four feet are not uncommon and all it takes is one time to either leave you high and dry or dragged under and sunk. Any savvy engineers are invited to submit plans for a foolproof design. Spuds (dock rises and falls on poles within collars) don’t work because the dock ends up in high water way out in the river and nothing lasts long out there when the drift piles come by as big as houses. Oh well.

Low water (<4.0)>12.0) means crawfish, and muddy water, and cold water usually. This is when the river earns its reputation for being mean and treacherous. It really isn’t. It’s just doesn’t like resistance. It is at its most productive when it carries the most silt, and the most altering to the Basin. Give and take.

Right now the river is at 3.6 feet, BLR. It is clear and cold and slow. Even armadillos swim across it. I saw one do that a couple weeks ago. It swam 400 feet – not very well, but it did it.

Rise and shine, Jim


Blogger James said...

I'm loving it! Can you put a link to the USGS real-time river gauge page in there?

December 18, 2005 6:04 PM  

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