In July of 1966 I loaded 15 gallons of gasoline into my 14 foot aluminum boat and proceeded down stream at 5:00 a.m. on Bayou Teche with my brother Philip through the town of Charenton Louisiana until we came to a small farm just east of Charenton where we took a 30 minute break.
We left Jeanerette at 5:00 a.m. in order to increase the length of our day by four hours allowing more time for exploration. At that time communities were sufficiently far apart for the rural atmosphere to remain intact and we were able to enjoy this country setting complete with early morning atmosphere.
We again proceeded down stream through the town of Baldwin past what we called the "Triangular Island" because of its triangular shape. The island was created when the Baldwin canal was dug providing two access points to the canal one from the west and one from the east. We stopped at this island and found a goat pasturing there. Continuing our down stream course we passed near Southcoast Plantation Home (antebellum) where there were many Live Oak trees on both banks with Spanish Moss streaming downward from their branches.
Passing Irish Bend the site of the civil war "Battle of Irish Bend" we came to the American Legion Post 64 where we took another 30 minute break. This post is a landmark for travel down steam for me now because it marks the point from Jeanerette where you would come after traveling for two hours at 15 miles per hour. Continuing downstream again we soon came to the town of Franklin the home of my great grandfather Frank Placide Perret who was a pharmacist and notary public.
At that time, in addition to the two copper roofed towers of Assumption Church, click here to see video captures, in Franklin there was a city hall that had a large copper dome and together with the towers of Assumption Church provided a very impressive sight going upstream to Franklin. Unfortunately this old city hall was torn down and replaced with a newer structure which to me is not as aesthetically pleasing.
We next crossed the Wax Lake Outlet though the two flood control structures, click here to see video capture, there. Fortunately for us the gates of these structures were open as they usually are at this time of the year due to the Atchafalaya river being at low flood stage, otherwise our trip would have come to a premature end since there is usually no one available to open the gates of this facility and the gates at other times of the year are closed due to high flood stage of the Atchafalaya River.
Finally we came to the mouth of the Bayou Teche which geographically used to empty into the Lower Atchafalaya River but now at this point is almost a continuous stream with the Lower Atchafalaya River due to a flood control levee interrupting the Lower Atchafalaya River at this point. We stopped at this location which has a nice grove of trees on the north bank and planted a brick on which Philip and I had carved our initials and the date.
After 30 minutes to an hour Philip and I continued into the lower Atchafalaya River passing the towns of Patterson and Bayou Vista until we came to a lock connecting the Lower Atchafalaya River with the Atchalafaya River. We continued down stream passing under the Morgan City Bridge until we came to a small sand bar where we stopped briefly before being hurried back on our return trip by a light afternoon rain shower.
In August of 1966 my brother and I departed from Jeanerette at 5:00 A.M. in order to take advantage of a 14 hour day to allow us to maximize the distance we could travel by boat in one day. I had considered going on an overnight trip with our pup tent but I couldn't get any takers on this either from Andre Larroque or my brother Philip.
We had 3 five gallon cans of gasoline with us in our boat in order to eliminate the need to stop along the way for gasoline which I thought might not be readily available along the bayou. Passing through the town of New Iberia we came to the town of Loreauville. Engineers were working on constructing a new bridge across the bayou here but we found a narrow passage through the new pilings and other floating obstructions.
It is just past the town of Loreauville that the scenery along Bayous Teche becomes significantly more beautiful with high banks in places and relatively numerous Live Oak trees with overhanging branches and draping Spanish Moss. Above the Keystone Locks the higher water caused by the dam there has caused numerous Live Oak trees to die and their grey color and bare branches lend a uniquely beautiful effect. This relatively beautiful section of the bayou continues until just before one reaches the town of Breaux Bridge.
Sometime later we arrived at the Keystone Locks, click here to see video captures, click here to see movie, where I climbed the guide ways in front of the locks to request that the structure be opened for us to pass through with our boat. After securing the boat to a metal ladder inside the lock my brother and I climbed to the top of the lock were we observed the attendant open valves to the higher side of the dam allowing water to flow by gravity into the chamber where our boat was moored. From the top of the locks we got a good view of the water flowing rapidly over the dam and the sound of this rushing water was unique and unusual to Louisiana.
Passing through the town of St. Martinville we passed the Evangeline Oak, click here to see video capture, made famous by Emmiline Labiche and Louis Arceneaux. We then passed through the towns of Parks and Ruth where Andre Larroque and I had stopped is 1965. We continued upstream passing through the town of Breaux Bridge until at mid day we came to a point along the bayou where there was a small barn on the north bank. We stopped here to eat lunch and rest for a while. Before starting our return trip back downstream at about 1:00 P.M., we placed a brick near the barn, on which we had carved our initials and the date.
After Philip and I used up our entire 14 hour day to reach Breaux Bridge it became obvious that no further exploration upstream along Bayou Teche could be made unless the expedition took more than one day to complete the task at hand which was ultimately the finding of the source of Bayou Teche. Since I could get no volunteers to go upstream with me for a two day trip from Jeanerette, I decided to proceed by truck from Jeanerette to Breaux Bridge and then by boat from Breaux Bridge as far upstream as it was possible to go in a 14 hour day.
I loaded my 14 foot aluminum boat into my father's stake body truck along with 15 gallons of gasoline and my 7 1/2 horsepower Sears outboard motor and proceeded north at about dawn through the towns of New Iberia and St. Martinville toward the American Legion Hall, click here to see video capture, in Breaux Bridge where I launched my boat after placing the motor on the transom. The bayouside behind the hall had a slope gradual enough to make the launching relatively easy. After about 30 minutes I passed the barn that my brother and I had reached in 1966. The way took me through the town of Cecelia with it's large cemetery on the right bank.
Shortly before reaching the town of Arnaudville there was a series of houses that were so close to the bayou they were raised up on pilings which became progressively shorter until the houses reached the ground as they neared the road there. Shortly after this you come to the beginning of Bayou Fusilier which is just before the bridge in Arnaudville. There was a small island at the junction of the two bayous. That island is still there today essentially unchanged. It is a very small island with a willow tree on it. The root structure of this tree is probably responsible for keeping this little island unchanged by holding the soil together and resisting the action of the flowing water.
After Arnaudville the left bank of the bayou slopes very gently upward until it reaches the road. The effect is that of a very broad bayouside at this point. Shortly after passing through the town of Leonville a tall radio tower appeared to the left. This tower is still there today. Soon after this I came to a small gasoline bulk storage facility which impressed me because my father was a gasoline distributor and this place reminded me of his bulk plant.
Sometime after this bulk plant the vegetation along the bayou increased considerably with a relatively large number of small trees along both banks. I was uneventfully coursing along the bayou after passing a railroad bridge, click here to see video capture, when after a slight bend in the stream past which I could not see I suddenly found myself in another bayou. I realized that I had come to the source, click here to see movie, of Bayou Teche. I had expected simply to go on upstream until I ran out of time in my 14 hour day but now I knew that I had accomplished what I was ultimately trying to do: determine the extent of the bayou upstream from Jeanerette.
I went downstream on what turned out to be Bayou Courtableau until I came to a small grocery store where I asked the owner what the name of the town was. She informed me that it was Porte Barre. I had a feeling of mixed surprise and disappointment as I had never heard of Porte Barre (by now I was well into St. Landry Parish in South Central Louisiana). I recall that I didn't say anything. I just walked out of the store and went back to my boat. This store is still there today but the building is now an American Legion hall.
I went back to the point where the Teche began, click here to see video capture, and planted a brick, on which I had carved my initials and the date, into the north bank of the bayou. I still had about an hour left in the day so I decided to continue upstream along Bayou Courtableau until midday when I stopped along the east bank and had lunch before making the return trip.