Mississippi River Levees (19th Century)

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“Everywhere sluices in the levees were used to irrigate the rice fields. With high water the saw mills on the banks of the river were also put to work… the rich fruit and vegetable gardens on the Cote des Allemands were impressive … believed that the Germans still supplied the capital (New Orleans) … Goods were transported mainly on the river, just as always. Cuming reported in 1810 that, above New Orleans, the river was ‘covered with multitudes of market boats rowing’ … On May 6, 1813 a complaint was registered in St. Charles Parish about the large number of cattle found daily on the road. The levees, especially the new ones, were being damaged by these [cattle], particularly when the river was high.”
— Helmut Blume, excerpts from The German Coast During the Colonial Era (1722-1803)

Bonnet Carré Cravasse
Between 1849 and 1882, the Bonnet Carré Crevasse left a large, fan-shaped imprint on the landscape. (Map from the New Orleans District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Brochure on the Bonnet Carré Spillway)

In 1824, John McDonogh, wealthy philanthropist of New Orleans, noted that Bonnet Carré would be an ideal site for an outlet into Lake Pontchartrain to prevent the flooding of New Orleans. McDonogh consider ed it ideal because it provided the closest approach from the river to the lake. The 1871–82 crevasse provided proof that it was an excellent corridor and proved McDonogh’s theory correct. (Following the devastating flood of 1927, the Congressional Flood Control Act of 1928 provided the impetus for construction of the Bonnet Carré Spillway to begin in 1929. The Bonnet Carré Spillway gates have been opened several times since then to protect those downriver from flooding, just as McDonogh envisioned could happen in 1824.

This text is copyright © material by Marilyn Richoux, Joan Becnel and Suzanne Friloux, from St. Charles Parish, Louisiana: A Pictorial History, 2010.

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Further Reading

By Henry E. Yoes III
River Parish Focus Magazine Sept. 1978

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