« PreviousContinue »
from Chandeleur Bay to the Sabine river, to the distance of twenty or thirty miles from the sea, is a morass on a level, with high water without trees or shrubs. Beyond this distance trees begin to appear, and the soil in many places is rich. Banks of fertile land accompany all the considerable streams, and in the marshy ground these banks form the only valuable portion of the soil. When the French took possession of the banks of the Mississippi there were but two trees to the distance of eleven leagues from its mouth; and the first settlements, in 1752, were so nearly destroyed by land foods on one side, and sea inundations on the other, that it was found necessary to abandon them; but the surface became afterwards solid, having risen three feet in fifteen years. The Balize, a small fort erected at this period at the mouth of the river, was found, in 1770, to be a mile distant by the formation of alluvial soil; and the barracks of $t Carlos, erected by Don Olloa, in 1767, soon disappeared. Hence, it has been calculated that the land encroaches upon the sea about two leagues every century, and it has been supposed, that a cypress tree, found at the depth of twenty feet, near New Orleans, must have been buried there twelve times this period. The neck of land which shoots out to the mouth of the Mississippi, and the peninsula which extends into a northeastern direction between Lake Borgne and Chandeleur Bay, are low and marshy, and nearly on a level with the surrounding waters; but the borders of the river, above the Plaquemine Bend, are elevated and fertile, and favourable to the growth of maize, rice, tobacco, indigo, cotton, and sugar.
From Great Island and Barataria Bay to Lake Ponchartrain, including the parish of New Orleans, the soil capable of cultivation is confined to the margin of the Mississippi, of the Bayou St John's, and the waters of Barataria bay, where the sugar-cane and tropical fruittrees arrive at considerable perfection. On the eastern side of the river a stripe of fertile land, called Terre aux Bæufs, or Ox land, watered by a creek of the same name, runs a mile in breadth through Cypress swamp. Above the city, in the parish of St Bernard, or the German coast, in that of St James's, or the Acadian coast, of Ascension and Ibberville, the arable soil is confined to the borders of the Mississippi. The banks of the river Amite are too low for settlements. In the parish, called the Interior of Lafourche, extending on each side of this river to the gulf, a great proportion of the surface is susceptible of culture ; but in the adjoining parish of the Assumption, the country between the banks of the Lafourche and the Atchafalaya riyers, is liable to frequent inundation. On the banks of the former, settlements are formed to the distance of ninety miles from its northern extremity, and the sugar-cane is there successfully cultivated. Those of the Bayou Plaquemines may be easily reclaimed. The parish of West Baton Rouge and of Pointe Coupée, still farther up the river on the west side, are favoured with a highly productive soil. The next parish, Concordia, extending along the river Mississippi towards the north-eastern boundary, is alluvial, and subject to frequent inundation from the Mississippi and the branches of the Tensaw river. The high margin on
each side of the river seldom exceeds 700 yards in breadth, and, in some places, it is not more than 400. The banks of all the rivers are higher than the intervening surface, which, in many parts, is liable to be overflowed during the rise of the water. This renders the soil so fertile, that its quality has remained the same, without the aid of manure, during sixty or seventy years of constant cultivation. * All Lower Louisiana appears to have been formed from the sea, the basis of the soil near the shore being a fine white sand. Masses of oyster shells and cypress trees, buri. ed at the depth of twenty feet, are found at a great distance from the Gulf of Mexico.
The country of Atakapas extends along the gulf from the outlet of the Atchafalaya river to that of the Mermenteau, a distance of 115 miles. It is watered by the Teche and Vermillion rivers. The arable land on the former extends to the distance of a mile on each side of the stream. The soil on the Vermillion river capable of cultivation extends from the gulf eighty miles in length, and two in breadth ; it is of an excel. lent quality, and well adapted to the culture of maize, cotton, tobacco, rice, and some parts of it are favour. able to the growth of the sugar-cane. The meadow ground of Atakapas, situated between the Teche and Vermillion rivers, commences below the junction of the former with the Fusillier river, where its breadth is from one to three miles, but afterwards it expands to twelve. From the banks of the Teche towards the
• Letter from Mr Robertson. Western Gazetteer, p. 141,
woods there is a gentle descent, which admits the free escape of the waters. In high floods some parts of the meadow are covered by the waters of the Atchafalaya, which, in 1811, reached within a mile of the Teche, and did great injury to the crops. The waters subside during summer, and leave the surface almost dry in autumn and winter. At the efflux of the Lower Teche are two pieces of meadow land, the one named Courtableau, the other Prairie du Petit Bois, which apparently were once connected with that of the Grand Chevreuil. All the meadow land bordering on the Teche is elevated above the highest rise of the waters, and the soil, consisting of a rich loam, is well adapted to the culture of cotton, tobacco, rice, Indian corn; and, in the lower parts, to that of the sugar-cane. The Opelousas country, which lies north-west of the Atakapas, presents a great variety of soil and productions. The most valuable part is the alluvial tract towards the north-eastern extremity. The north-western parts are covered with pine. Mr Mericult is the proprietor of 5000 acres on the river Teche, all arable, which he values at from fifteen to sixteen dollars per acre. The Opelousas meadow land which runs in a south-westerly direction towards the sea, where it terminates in a marsh, covers one-third of this district, being seventy miles long, twenty-five broad, and containing more than 1,120,000 acres. The soil resembles that of the adjacent woods, and is adapted to the growth of cotton, indigo, and tobacco. The most fertile parts are along the waters of the Vermillion. Below the thirtieth parallel of latitude, except on the Teche, it sinks under the level of the tide along the coast from the Pearl to the Sabine river, where the surface is so marshy, that the coast cannot be approached except in three or four places to the west of the Atchafalaya channel.
A chain of small hills, with an elevation of from twenty to thirty feet, extends from New Iberia, in latitude 30° 3', beyond the Vermillion river, across the Prairie of Opelousas. The country which environs this immense tract of meadow land is, in many parts, well wooded, producing oak, cypress, black walnut, poplar, elm, maple, laurel, magnolia, honey locust, lin. don, catalpa, sassafras, dog-wood, iron-wood, and candleberry myrtle. Along the Sabine river, (which forms the western boundary of the state,) to the distance of twelve miles from its mouth, the borders consist of marshy meadow ground, which is but little elevated above the common height of the water. Twenty miles higher up, the surface rises gradually into high meadow land, as far as a creek, in latitude 30% north, where the woods commence, consisting chiefly of pine, and extending from the Prairie of Opelousas to ked river. Abeve the mouth of the Wau-ca-hatcha, a chain of hills separates the Sabine from the Red river. The thin soil of this ridge is of a yellow ochreous colour, and is covered with pine, oak, and beech, thinly interspersed with ash, hickery, and dog-wood. In spring and summer it produces a luxuriant herbage. The country watered by Red river is extremely fertile; but its branches, communicating with numerous lakes and streams, are subject, in many places, to annual inundation. The whole country, from its junction with