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.

Sunday, August 05, 2007


The sunset yesterday was peaceful. An afternoon of warm temperatures moderated by showers ended in one of those sunsets that let’s you believe in calmness.

The river always surprises. What it should do, it doesn’t. What it shouldn’t, it does. And then for a while it is predictable, lulling you into forgetting about the surprises, forgiving it without knowing you needed to. The water this summer has been higher than is usual. During July, we expect very low water, not the moderate to high water we had. The noticeable effect, at least to me, was the effect on the shrimp migration. For the last two years, the tiny shrimp that make their way up the river to some unknown distance, to some unknown destination, have come from the bay in mid July. The water is clear (for bayou water) and the current is as slow as it gets at that time, in July. The little shrimp travel by night, on the surface and visible by the millions. They are totally impressive in their numbers. They swim upcurrent in groups of a few to many more than that, always making headway against the current. This year, there was a delay in the migration, and in searching for a reason, the higher-than-usual velocity of the water, and the increased turbidity, come to mind. But they are back, late, and you can see them now if you go to the river at night. Like watching geese coming south in the fall, and songbirds going north in the spring, the little shrimp mark time for us, and give us a sense of participation in movements greater than our own.

The transition applies to bigger shrimps too; at least with respect to the traps I use to catch them. It was time this week to retire the old traps that have been in the river the last two years, and replace them with brand new traps that were just finished today. The traps catch a lot of things not shrimplike: eels, other fishes of many kinds, snakes and lampreys too. So, out with the old, in with the new traps. Tomorrow we should see some interesting things.

The river is at 5.5 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge (normally at about 2.0 now) and should fall slowly by Friday to 5.1 feet. The Mississippi and Ohio are both falling all the way up, and they have not been what is causing the higher water. It is the Red River, carrying water from north Texas and south Oklahoma that is responsible this year. It is interesting that it can rain 12 inches here and it hardly affects the water in the Atchafalaya, but heavy rains in north Texas will.

Rise and Shine, Jim