Spanish Lake at Old Spanish Trail
What's the Story?
Spanish Lake, formerly called Lake Flamand and later Lake Tasse (meaning “cup” in French), is believed to have been an oxbow lake of the Mississippi River when it flowed 3,800 to 5,500 years ago through what is now Bayou Teche. Spanish Lake is an example of a bluff lake, a type of lake that forms in areas between the bayou bank and the higher bank that runs along the edge of a river’s drainage area. This explains Spanish Lake’s unusual shape, with one side straight as if a bluff structure and the other side a curved line (like a former river course).
In historic times, the land surrounding the lake was a vacherie (cattle range). Later, during Spanish rule of Louisiana, a large number of Canary Islanders and immigrants of Spanish descent moved into the area and settled along its shores, giving the lake its current name.
Spanish Lake is 16 feet higher in elevation than the nearby Bayou Teche. In the early 1800s, before the advent of steam-powered mills, the owner of Keystone Plantation used this elevation difference to construct a canal between the two waterways and power a sugarcane grinding mill. This is one of the few known instances of water power used for this purpose in southern Louisiana. After passage of the River and Harbor Act of 1907, the canal was expanded to increase the amount of water available to rice farmers.
The Mississippi River Flood of 1927 sent water between the Teche ridge on the east and the escarpment (a long steep slope) known as the coteau to the west. Floodwaters flowed into Spanish Lake and then New Iberia, where they met rising water from Bayou Teche and inundated the city. The combination of a year of heavy rains and breaks in early Mississippi River levees contributed to widespread flooding throughout the region. This catastrophic event became one of the most devastating disasters in U.S. history and influenced a dramatic shift in the nation’s flood protection policy.
Today Spanish Lake is a favorite local boating and fishing spot. It also offers birdwatching and a walking trail.
This site’s geology/geomorphology: Holocene meander-belt (point bar) deposits of the Bayou Portage occupation of Mississippi River
Site GPS Coordinates: 30.044399, -91.862128
Closest Address: 117 Spanish Lake Road, New Iberia, LA 70560
Driving Directions: From New Iberia, head northwest on LA-182 towards Lafayette. Turn right at green road sign for
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