It’s a hot day with big beautiful cumulus clouds. Very humid, the water is brown but not heavily silted as I start in the Classic Bayou Canal, a place I have paddled and motored 300 times. It is 12 plus feet deep; I have seen it dry. Sycamore, persimmon, willow and pepper vine close it into a tight jungle of vegetation, so different than the 70s. The birds are varied and full of song. At one point I smell a rotting animal. I am sure some have drowned. On I idle slowly, a blue dragonfly lands on my bare foot. I stop listen and think of all the days like this, peaceful – and very quiet in its own way and alone.
The wind is cooling; the deep green of the tree tops sway slightly. As I see a beaver resting on a floating bald cypress log, I know the terrestrial wildlife that did not move out in time is having a hard life. The birds and aquatic life on the other hand dance with joy. A beaver is an aquatic creature, swimming and building dams, but when the water goes over its den too quickly for him to rebuild higher…life is different. I move closer and get good shots and see this dazed look on its face. He is confused with no dark hole to crawl into during the daylight hours.
A little later I come on to a patch of land 21 feet by 15 feet and see the backs of two armadillos protruding from the dirt. I stop and photograph them while four more come crawling out of a hole that is not much more than a depression. The water table is about 10 inches down, so they cannot dig proper holes. Lucky for them the insects are kind of trapped here too. Food!
After dark, I was just falling asleep on a friend’s small houseboat. It was a fairly primitive craft, but was mosquito proof. I heard a human-like voice and something bumped the boat. I leaped out of bed and after getting no reply to “Whose there!” I shine my light out into Bloody Bayou and see something that looked kind of white and swimming. It came toward me and the white was actually tan. It was a White-tailed Deer, a doe and she was swimming like an Olympic athlete. She came right up to the boat. Looked like she wanted to climb aboard, but the deck was too high. I thought for a minute that she might want me to lift her up on deck, but I knew that would turn into a real mess.
I first met the Atchafalaya in the high water years of 1973-75. It was fun remembering those great days when I could paddle about everywhere and today I could again. The water is already dropping. The system is getting a good flushing of fresh water. The terrestrial animals will bounce back and the Basin remains as my favorite place in the whole world and a gem in Louisiana’s portfolio.