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Bayou Liberty Whirlpool

Shortly after the Louisiana Purchase, when Joseph Laurent built his trading post on the high bank of Bayou Liberty — the building now known as the Salmen Lodge — he probably first consulted with the locals as to whether the location would flood. The Indians had lived on the bayou for thousands of years and the French for almost a century so they all probably assured him it was a good spot. Indeed, the monster floodwaters of Hurricanes Katrina and Issac didn’t even come close to the building.



Another added feature of this location is how wide and deep the bayou is here; it would be a perfect place for Laurent to turn his 50’ lake-trading schooner, The Marguerite around. He could get her pointed downstream, tied to the dock and ready for his next voyage across the lake with goods produced by him and his neighbors. 


So why is there a wide spot? There are several of these found in Florida Parish streams on the sandy coastal plain and are natural riverine features called “backwater pools.” During high water on Bayou Liberty, after heavy rains begin to drain from the forty-odd square miles of its basin, this spot develops a whirlpool, or gyre. Though this might elicit visions of doomed ships and sea monsters, such circular currents usually trap nothing more than floating debris and then dissipate once the water goes down. What they DO accomplish, with repeated action, is to help scour a deep hole on the bottom and a wide spot on the banks. The one in front of the Salmen Lodge was visible after recent rains and is probably responsible for the 25-foot depth here (Many thanks to Dr. Lee Domangue and the depth gauge on his boat). 


Typically, backwater pools happen just downstream of a bend that contains either a stubbornly resistant geologic feature, perhaps a strata of extra dense clay or something like a large, imbedded tree stump. The fact that this side of the bayou’s bank has been loaded with brick rubble since Laurent’s time (when he was making beau coups bricks) may have contributed to the continuation of this feature. 


Like with most Florida Parish streams, the Bayou Liberty channel is slowly evolving but its future is unknown. It’s not as lively as it once was when it was probably influenced by the bigger, nearby Pearl River and the huge Ice Age glacial meltwater and sediment flows it carried into the area.


One of the 1960s era Boy Scouts that stayed at Camp Salmen once offered information that the camp’s commissary did a lively trade in leather moccasin kits that the boys crafted to earn merit badges. During the grand finale of their program they took to their canoes for a mass flotilla in the bayou in front of the Salmen Lodge and somehow also made it a point to have a mass capsizing. The result was a mass loss of the shoes and who knows what else going down into that hole.




During heavy rains, debris is trapped by the notorious Bayou Liberty gyre.

Last modified on Wednesday, 07 October 2015 21:22

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