"Monet's" Marsh

Sunday, May 9, 2004
CC's Journal 17

Sue's at the helm while I am recalling many recent and past glorious days in extreme southwestern Louisiana at the Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge, which is now fading into the distance in the wake of the Wetland Wanderer.

Its levied 16,000-acre Lacassine Pool is a coastal treasure, and we had just finished exploring it in early May, when the water lilies were in bloom. Amongst the treasure's springtime jewels were the white water lilies' seemingly endless creamy white flowers with golden yellow centers adorning the watery paths, which are used by numerous anglers. These waterways were bordered by the purple flowers of pickerelweed, the red ones of spatterdock, and the white petals of bull tongue with its green buttons. Certainly the impressionist French painter, Claude Monet, could have gotten lots of inspiration here.

The best season in this area for bird watching is winter. One can see ducks and geese by the thousands. A favorite of my visits was back in 1983, when I stood at the eastern edge of the refuge at dusk watching ducks pour out to feed in the surrounding rice fields and geese pour in to rest for the night. It was one of those unusual lingering after glows of sunset that one might see in the late fall in conjunction with a cold front. The waterfowl looked like black darts in the wind with a backdrop of burnt orange fading light; meanwhile, an amber full moon was rising to help my night vision. I slept on the levee that night to witness the comings and goings of these fowl. Another time I saw 150,000 teal in one flock while riding through the refuge with the assistant manager at the time, Paul Yakupzack. That was quite impressive!

Bryan Winton is the manager today, and he showed me around the refuge outside of the pool. The entire refuge consists of 34,866 acres. We first went up Bayou Lacassine to see four islands of bald cypress, thick and healthy. The different tones of green of a few intermingled tupelo trees made the landscape even more beautiful. Later we went to a bend on the same bayou, which had a bank that was just about destroyed by erosion. Once the marsh grass on this edge of the bayou disappears, a very narrow strip of willow trees will be the only protection for the marshy area beyond, which he claims is the wintering ducks' favorite place. Bryan is trying to get a project funded to shore up this deteriorated bank.

Meanwhile, one important reality Sue and I have noticed during the past few months is that even the government refuges and private lands that have been taken care of pretty well are still at risk. Though the land loss problems differ from eastern to western coastal Louisiana, they exist everywhere. Amongst the beauty… all of us have to see the problems and look for immediate solutions.