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.

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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.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

River Messages

This morning the river had more things to say. It always does say things, of course. Today perhaps it just was easier to hear. There have been changes. This morning the water is brownish/ reddish and filled with swirling clouds of silt, and rising. Yesterday the water was greenish and clearing (clearing by our standards at least). I say by our standards because when I mention clear water in the Atchafalaya River, my friends from elsewhere always smile and make some remark about “Clear? Clear? That?”. They are used to water from mountain sources, or sandy sources, water that you can see down two feet, sometimes much more. Our water is not like that. It carries sediment from runoff and deposits it wherever the current decides to rest for a bit. At best you would have to say our clearest water is murky by California standards. And that is OK. It really is. By life support standards, our water is very much the mistress of waters. I don’t have the numbers that would show it, but I think we get more life per liter in the Mississippi drainage than places that have clearer, prettier, water. It just seems that mud goes with a primitive life force that packs a maximum amount of power into the waters that are colored by the sediments. That power produces life in huge abundance. If that is the measure of beauty in water, then our water is very pretty indeed.

As a reminder of this fertility, this morning the river shrimp appear from nowhere and flood the traps set out for them. All of a sudden they are there. They were there (somewhere in the river) all along of course, but for some reason the water gets muddy, especially red muddy, and wow, out come the shrimp moving in hordes. My friend Ray Bauer’s graduate students will set out traps today and they should have no trouble getting the shrimp they need to continue the river shrimp studies they are doing.

And why is the river muddy, and rising, all of a sudden? It rained yesterday, yes, but that’s not the real reason. The real message is that something has happened far up the Mississippi, something big enough to change the river dynamics all the way down here. That something is related to the very large floods that are taking place on the upper Mississippi. The message is that it is a big thing that has happened up there. For us, at least, it is fortunate that the equivalent floods are not taking place on the Ohio instead of, or in addition to, the Mississippi. If that were so, and building on waters that have not fully receded from the high spring waters we had, we would need to be looking for higher ground. As it is, we will get a rise from it and that isn’t usual for June.

The river is at 13.2 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge right now, rising to 13.7 in about five days. The Ohio isn’t rising much at all. But the upper Mississippi is flooding Iowa. What happens down here as a result of the flooding will illustrate the effect of the upper Mississippi compared to the Ohio. It will be interesting to see how much of a rise we get. Stay tuned. We shall see.

Rise and Shine, Jim


Blogger Bryant said...

How high does the river have to get before your yard starts to flood?

June 29, 2008 7:17 PM  
Blogger jim said...

Kind of depends on what you mean. This year the water came up in the yard enough to catch catfish where i usually mow. But, probably about 18-19 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge would begin to get onto the grass. Why? Jim

June 29, 2008 8:44 PM  

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