As I look out at the brown water, the river reminds me of a highway sometimes. Looking out at it today from my desk, I see birds flying up the river, and then I see some going the other way. They are doing this in the rain. There are ring-billed gulls, and double-crested cormorants, and Forster’s terns. And once in a while the osprey passes on patrol on its way to who-knows-where. It stops in a tree on the opposite bank from our dock and just sits there. After a while it takes off and goes down the river back the way it had come. Wood ducks have been flying all day, I guess in response to the cloudy, rainy weather. They don’t stick to the river though, they just seem to criss-cross it, coming and going with no visible destination – at least not one you can understand if you can’t fly.
And the river highway is carrying a lot of traffic today, all of it going in one direction, south. I’m looking at rafts of debris of considerable size. The one I see is probably sixty yards long and twenty wide. I see several logs that would be big enough to help float my raft, if I wanted to go out in the rain and catch them, which I don’t. The raft is floating just fine. The rest of the material is jumbled up branches and vegetation. The debris, or drift, as Myette Pt. fishermen call it, seems to be cleaner today than it sometimes is. There are no Igloos or Styrofoam chunks being carried down the highway to the Gulf, at least right now. Experience teaches that there is more of this drift traveling along the bottom of the river/highway than you can see on the surface. A lot of stuff just barely floats, or doesn’t float, and it just rolls along and tumbles along the bottom until it reaches a place where the forces of the current weaken and can’t push it anymore. And then it settles down to become a piece of the bottom environment. Until, that is, a bigger rise in the river picks it up again and helps to further its journey to the Gulf.
The stuff traveling on top of the highway will get hitchhikers from time to time. Some of the drift today was carrying a great blue heron perched in the rain on a floating stump, and other stuff carried a couple spotted sandpipers. They were running up and down the logs jabbing at small live things that were good to eat – fast food along the road. Cormorants often float along with the drift, but don’t seem to be too interested in diving.
Yep, not too surprising that the river as a highway appealed to us too. My ancestors came up Bayou Teche and settled in the New Iberia/St.Martinville area. Many people living here now got here that way. But, you would want to be careful if you went out on the highway right now, at least the Atchafalaya highway. It is high and fast, like a big moving walkway on a long concourse. It can surprise you with things coming at you fast on the surface, and things coming just as fast but unseen below.
The river is at 16 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge right now, falling from that in the next few days. The Mississippi and Ohio are both falling all the way up, so this rise doesn’t look like it will be sustained. The crawfishermen better be careful where they put traps this week, if the water falls next week they might have to walk the swamp to get them.
Rise and Shine, Jim