Gators & Freighters
LMRD No 209
Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~For the completion of the www.rivergator.org 1 million words describing the Middle & Lower Mississippi River for paddlers and others.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~(Mark River Reporting)
Day 1- Glass Beach to Manchac Point-15 miles
The expedition crew wakes with great spirit and energy, finally getting the chance to start our journey. After many weeks of planning and packing, the time has come to get to the river. A morning breakfast of bacon, grits, granola, grapes, and strawberries points us in the right direction, as we meet and greet the rest of the team.
We gather to watch a orientational video from the LEAN team, Michael and Paul Orr, to familiarize us to the region and explain its complex checks and balances. Afterwards, writer Mary Ann Steinberg, explained to me the difference between Creole and Cajun, and turned me on to some books to read. The last minute pack followed, as we got closer to heading for the Mississippi River.
We head to Glass Beach to launch. On the ride over, I pictured 200 industrial refineries within 85 miles. I think about my Mother, Iveara Peoples who died of cancer, and now I'm going through " Cancer Alley". I imagine a dense, dark cloud hovering over the river, with pollutants and carcinogens painting the scenery bleak-a human wasteland. As we get closer, I look around at my team, slowly changing my perspective, knowing we are in this together, and we have to complete a five year project- the Rivergator.
We arrive at the boat ramp, as love ones, media, and our ground crew showed moral support. The day is bright and beautiful, as we paddle across to the west bank. Fours bald eagles glide above us giving me goose bumps. A gorgeous bluff of sand, just pass the Intercostal Waterway, lined with willows, sycamores, and cottonwood trees, is where we stopped for lunch. The sand showed evidence of beavers dragging saplings to their lodge. My view of this stretch of river is changing rapidly. Even though filled with industries and refineries, it's still the beautiful Mississippi River.
We continue downstream towards Red Eye Crossing, as the incredible LSU Tiger Stadium, sits on the east bank. I smile brightly, always seeing the stadium on television, and now seeing it from the river. Large ocean liners breeze pass us creating a modest wake. I 'm surprised, thinking their wakes would surpass those of the towboats. Cliff swallows skim the surface of the river, harvesting small fish confused in the surf. My day gets better, as three more bald eagles meet us at Missouri Bend, while a flock of pelicans soar high in formation. I take this time to think about my friends and family in Missouri. A large dredging operation was in progress at Sardine Crossing, as we see Manchac Bend in the distant. A large bluff on sand greets us at Manchac Point and we stop for camp.
All the studying, and literature I've read about this section of the Mississippi River gave me a grim feeling, but the incredible sunset slowly changed the images created in my mind. Mark River
For photos and more reading, go to www.rivergator.org
A service of the Lower Mississippi River Foundation