« PreviousContinue »
Levee.—To protect the arable soil from this annual flood, a bank of earth, called a levee, has been formed on each side of the river, from the lowest settlement to Baton Rouge. The principal embankment extends from the upper part of the island of New Orleans to Fort Plaquemines, a distance of 130 miles. Some few miles above New Orleans, where the force of the current is considerable, this embankment is thirty feet at the base, six on the summit, and fifteen high; but, in general, it does not exceed twelve at the base, and five in height. During the rise of the river the pressure against this bank has sometimes occasioned a disruption. The last instance occurred six miles above New Orleans, on the plantation of Mr M'Carty, in May 18i6, where the waters forced an opening 140 yards broad, which admitted the escape of a volume of water six feet deep. In some places the Mississippi has changed its bed. At a great bend, twelve leagues below the mouth of Red river, some Canadians opened a gut, throughwhich the waters poured with such impetuosity as to form a new and shorter channel by fourteen leagues; and the former lost all its waters except during the period of annual inundation. Navigation.—Ships ascend to New Orleans, and discharge their cargoes on the banks. Schooners go as high as Natchez. The common progress of a boat in ascending is five leagues per day. Vessels are sometimes lost by running against the extremity of drifted trees, which rise and sink with the motion of the water, their roots adhering to the muddy bottom.
Red river, which has its source in Mexico, in the Cordilleras chain of mountains, north-east of Santa Fe, * which separates its waters from those of the Rio del Norte, receives several streams from 80 to 150 miles in length, before it enters Louisiana, and afterwards meandering in a south-eastern direction, it is joined by the rivers Bodeau, Dascheet, Black Lake, and Saline, in its course to the Mississippi, which it enters just below the 31st degree of latitude. The valley which this river traverses is described to be 800 miles in length, and 15 in breadth. The general width of the river is nearly 100 yards. Its mouth is between 400 and 500, but it gradually contracts to 300 and 250. A chain of lakes extends from the 33d degree of latitude, where it enters the state, as low as the 32d, the beds of which being nearly on a level with that of the river, their waters, according to their difference of elevation, flow alternately into each other. The course of the river, fifty miles from its outlet, is through a low marshy level, and at the distance of twenty-seven miles it approaches within three of the Mississippi, and runs nearly in a parallel direction to the junction. The intervening surface, during the swell of the waters in spring, is completely inundated, with the exception of some small spots as far as the Avoyelles, and even between this and the rapids, more than 100 miles from its mouth. The waters accumulate in some parts to the height of fifty
* In 37° north latitude, and 105° west longitude from Greenwich. or sixty feet. This river is navigable 1500 miles from its outlet, but the navigation is obstructed in two places. 1. By the rapids in 31° 21', 185 miles from its mouth, formed by two ledges of soft rock, extending across the channel at the distance of three quarters of a mile from each other. Loaded boats cannot pass when the water is low, but when high the rocks form no obstruction. 2. By rafts, commencing 800 miles above Natchitoches, and extending nearly 50 miles in length, formed of heaps of drifted wood, intermixed with vegetable earth, and in some places so compact that trees grow on them, and men and horses cross without danger. There is a passage for boats of ninety miles extent through the adjoining lakes and bayous. Its most considerable branches are the Bodeau, the Dascheet, the Black Lake river, and the Saline river, all on the north side, and the Black river on the same side, which joins Red river near the Mississippi. Black river is formed of three great branches which come from the Missouri territory in a southern direction; the Ouachita, Ocatahoola, and Tensaw. The Ouachita branch, which rises in the high meadows near the 34th parallel of latitude, between the Red and Arkansaw rivers, passes through the Ouachita valley, receiving on the west the Derbane, a fine stream about sixty miles in length, and navigable for large boats thirty miles; and on the east the Barthelemy, which falls in three miles below the Derbane, on the opposite side, after a southern course of more than 100 miles. The banks of the Barthelemy are high, and not subject to be overflowed, but it communicates with. the bayou Siard and the bayou Bonne Idee by connecting channels. The latter of these bayous is more than 100 miles in length, and falls into the Riviere aux Boeufs a short distance before it joins the Ouachita, on the east side. Ox river, (Riviere aux Boeufs,) the last branch of the Ouachita, issues from the lakes between the rivers Arkansaw and Missouri, and, after a southerly course, unites with the Ouachita, in latitude 31° 45'. The course of the river is estimated at 240 miles, and it is navigable as far north as the Prairie Mer Rouge. During the spring floods, which cover the swamps, the waters of this river are stagnant to a considerable distance above its mouth. Fourteen miles below the Boeuf river, the Ouachita unites with the Tensaw and Ocatahoolu. To this point, where its channel is crossed by a ledge of rocks, it is always navigable. The Ocatahoolu river is formed of several branches, which intersect the country between the Ouachita and Saline rivers; and after the union of these, the Ocatahoolu takes an eastern direction, and, before joining the Black river, passes through a lake of the same name, which has from ten to fifteen feet of water in the rainy season, but in summer is dry and covered with grass. The Tensaw, which unites with Black river opposite to the junction of the Ocatahoolu, is formed of two branches, the Tensaw and Maqon, which run in a southern direction, and unite to the east of the land called Sicily Island. The former issues from a small piece of water called Stack Lake, near the north-eastern angle of the state, the other from Grand Lake, situated a little above the northern line of limits.
After the union of these three branches, the Ouachita, Tensaw, and Ocatahoolu, the stream has the name of Black river, which it preserves to its union with Red river, a course of thirty miles, in which the current is gentle, and the channel sufficiently deep for the navigation of large boats throughout the year. From the mouth of this river to the junction of Red river with the Mississippi, the distance is but thirty miles. During the swell of the Red river and Mississippi, the waters of Black river accumulate, and prevent the regular discharge of those of the Ouachita and Tensaw, which, in 1811, 1812, and 1813, overflowed their banks, and inundated many places in the parish of Concordia. The waters which, during the spring floods, escape from the Mississippi by the numerous lagoons or outlets below the river Arkansaw, run into the bayou Mafon and Tensaw rivers, and through the Black and Red rivers to the parent stream.
The Sabine river, which forms the western boundary of the state, as high as the thirty-second degree of latitude, has its origin in the extensive plains to the north-west of Natchitoches, and discharges itself into the Gulf of Mexico, through the Sabine lake, in 29° 23' of north latitude, and in 93° 57' west from Greenwich, or 16° 57' from Washington city. The distance of its outlet from that of the Mississippi is 250 miles in a straight line. The lake, which commences at the distance of twelve miles from its mouth, is twentyfive miles long, and from ten to twelve wide. At the distance of thirty-five miles from its mouth, it receives