Bayou Courtableau at Bayou Teche Headwaters - Port Barre Park
What's the Story?
Before significant settlement in this region, Bayou Courtableau was considered a major highway through the area. Around 1760, Jacques Courtableau built a trading post at the junction of Bayou Courtableau and its distributary channel, Bayou Teche. The intersection later became known as Barre’s Landing, after Alexander Charles Barré, who eventually purchased the land. Today it is the town of Port Barre.
In the trading post’s early days, flatboat and keel-boats brought goods south to New Orleans. Flatboats had flat bottoms, square sides and could navigate shallow waters. These boats could only travel downstream, however, and were usually taken apart and sold for lumber upon reaching New Orleans. Keel-boats, on the other hand, were long, slender, propelled by oars and setting poles, and could be maneuvered both downstream and upstream.
The arrival of small draft steamboats in 1832 established a more reliable connection to the Gulf of Mexico. The main steamboat route from New Orleans followed the Mississippi River up through Bayou Plaquemine to the Atchafalaya River and then to Bayou Courtableau. Travel was frequently affected by low water, immovable rafts of debris, underwater snags and shifting sandbars, including one at the junction of Bayou Courtableau and the Atchafalaya called le Petite Diable (“the little devil”). During the low water season from June to December, this sandbar prevented larger boats from entering the bayou, so a smaller boat on standby would load cargo and passengers for the final phase of the trip. This transfer was expensive and time-consuming, however (it could turn a three- or four-day trip into a 13-day journey). The local steamboat era ended in the early 1900s once the railroad came to town.
Port Barre became a timber town during the cypress logging era around 1908. The local mill encouraged significant growth in the settlement due to the number of employees it needed to operate. Growth continued once oil was discovered here in the late 1920s.
Before the construction of levees along the Atchafalaya Basin Floodway, Port Barre suffered from severe flooding events. When the nearby Bayou Des Glaises levee broke during the Mississippi River Flood of 1927—which affected much of south Louisiana—Port Barre was inundated with eight to 10 feet of water. Refugee camps in Opelousas and Grand Coteau hosted the thousands of flood victims seeking food and shelter. Even after the waters receded, residents returned to find roads impassable, crops destroyed and homes uninhabitable.
LA Hwy. 190 was built through the area in the late 1920s, and several nearby bridges were constructed in the 1930s, making this area more easily accessible.
This site’s geology/geomorphology: Holocene natural levee deposits along distributaries of Red River adjacent to Holocene point bar deposits of Bayou Portage occupation of Mississippi River
Site GPS Coordinates: 30.560014, -91.956957
Closest Address: 227 Bayou Drive, Port Barre, LA 70577
Driving Directions: From Baton Rouge, take US-190 W to Hwy. 103 (Saizan Avenue). Turn right onto Hwy. 103 and head north ~0.5 mile. Turn left onto Bayou Drive just before the bridge which crosses Bayou Courtableau (Bourque's Supermarket is on the left). Proceed ahead to the boat landing on the left, just past a little building.
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