Day 78, August 15
Measurements: turbidity at confluence of Atchafalaya and Lower Old River: 24cm. Nitrate: 2ppm. Miles today: 31.
I woke early again, before the sunrise, before my alarm. I got to see the fog on the Atchafalaya, which was very beautiful, and got to watch the sunrise as I ate leftovers, drank tea and tang, and packed up. That's today's picture: pre-dawn on the Atchafalaya. I was out on the water at around 8am.
The river is much, much smaller than the Mississippi, and much, much less forceful. It feels a lot more chill, in a way that I appreciate. There's still some pretty substantial current, though, and I made the six-ish miles to Simmesport in just over an hour, which was surprisingly fast.
I'm not sure why I got out at Simmesport, other than just to look around. The town is on the other side of a tall levee, of course. Most of the houses are small, many seem to be repurposed mobile homes or manufactured homes. Many are in very bad repair, some seem to be entirely destroyed and vacant. The whole town feels pretty poverty-stricken, and there are very few retail businesses, all of which are on the main road, the one with the bridge over the river and towards Baton Rouge. I walked to one of these, a gas station, and bought a soda and some snacks, then headed back to the river. It was getting very hot. The guy at the gas station charged me twenty-five cents to fill up my thermos with ice, and I was like, that's fair.
At the boat landing, an older white guy was just coming back from fishing in his flat-bottomed motorboat, right as I was changing into my skirt. He didn't say anything about that, but we had a little pleasant conversation about whether I'm going all the way to the gulf. I'm now so far downriver that it's assumed I'm going all the way, rather than that being someone's first question. As I pulled out, I noticed that he had a bumper sticker on the back of his boat that said "I'd rather be fishing in LOUISIANA!" Congrats, guy! You're living your dream.
On the way downstream, I saw a single tow with three barges, all full of what appeared to be scrap metal. Lots and lots of logs and sticks and bits of bark in the water. Lots of fish jumping, anytime I'm not in quickly moving water. A fair number of birds, but nothing like the squad that was in that still channel from the lock. Lots of dead fish, floating on the surface.
I went under another of those aerial pipelines, like what I'd seen up in Illinois somewhere. They look like bridges from far away. I still don't understand why folks would put some pipelines under the river, and hold some up over it like this.
In the afternoon, I made it to Melville. Out of a similar sense of just sort of curiosity, I parked and walked up into town. It's almost always a pretty long walk from the boat ramp, down here, and most of the roads aren't pleasant.
If anything, Melville is significantly worse than Simmesport. There were no open businesses, and most seemed closed permanently, including both of the grocery stores. On my way out of town, I noticed two brick buildings that looked like they might have been quite nice when they were built. One had a marble plaque that had been covered in concrete, but the concrete was spalling off. The plaque said it had been a bank, and was built in 1903.
I got back out on the water, not planning to go much further. I'd seen a sandy beach just a few miles downstream, and planned to stay there. Sure enough, there it was once I rounded a little bend. There weren't any truly flat spaces, unfortunately, but I made it work.
For dinner, I made pasta with pesto, vegan protein crumbles, sundried tomatoes, dehydrated mushrooms and onions, nutritional yeast. It was really great.
Tomorrow, I want to stop in Krotz Springs. It looks like they have a library where I could do updates for awhile in the afternoon. And then I want to make it at least to the place where the Atchafalaya splits into a main channel, and what I have read is a more natural back channel, which I plan to take.