Vermilion River at Vermilionville Watershed Exhibit
What's the Story?
The Vermilion River, also known as Bayou Vermilion, forms on the common boundary of Lafayette, St. Landry and St. Martin parishes, where Bayou Fusilier, a distributary outlet of Bayou Teche, merges with Bayou Carencro. From there it flows south through Lafayette and Abbeville to Vermilion Bay. The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway crosses the Vermilion at Intracoastal City, connecting the river to points throughout south Louisiana and neighboring Gulf states.
The Vermilion is a consequent stream or tidal river. This means its origins relate to tidal influences from Vermilion Bay, which gradually eroded coastal marshes to grow the river’s channel north from the edge of the bay. Later, the connection with Bayou Teche through Bayou Fusilier developed, completing the river creation cycle.
During early settlement and into the Antebellum period, the Vermilion was an important secondary waterway for steamboats carrying agricultural products to New Orleans, the East Coast and, eventually, Europe. When its water level was low, the Vermilion offered limited access due to snags, stumps and submerged logs that created dangerous conditions for boat traffic. Transportation was easier from mid-January through May when excess floodwaters from spring thaws in the upper Mississippi flowed into the Atchafalaya and then across the floodplain into the rivers in the basin.
With the advent of railroads and highways leading into Lafayette, the river’s use for commerce and transportation lessened. And after the construction of the western Atchafalaya Basin levee—when seasonal increases in water flow no longer occurred—the river developed stagnation and water quality issues. The Teche-Vermilion Pump Station and canal was constructed in 1982 to carry water from the Atchafalaya River at Krotz Springs and augment river flow during periods of low rainfall and runoff.
Development in present-day Lafayette and the suburban area has exceeded the river’s ability to adequately drain during heavy rainfall. When this occurs, river waters back up and begin to flow north, reversing course. Backwater flow sometimes travels through Coulee Crow and Bayou Tortue to the 6,400-acre Bayou Tortue Swamp. This swamp provides a large capacity for backwater flow and takes pressure off the Vermilion, reducing flood risk in the city of Lafayette. During an extreme rain event in south Louisiana in August 2016, however, the Vermilion River breached its banks, flowed backward into these swamps and the adjacent Cypress Island area and still caused numerous homes and businesses to flood. Standing water remained up to four weeks in some areas before empting downstream through the Vermilion and back into the Bayou Teche via Spanish Lake.
The river now functions as an important source of agricultural irrigation and recreational amenity for area residents.
This site’s geology/geomorphology: Holocene alluvial deposits (natural levees, distributaries and abandoned channels) of small rivers
Site Access: This trail kiosk is located within the Vermilionville Living History Museum and Folk Life Park. Visit http://www.vermilionville.org for information about open hours and entrance fees.
Site GPS Coordinates: 30.214629, -91.996742
Closest Address: 300 Fisher Road, Lafayette, LA 70508
Driving Directions: From the east or west on I-10, take Exit 103A and head east on NW Evangeline Throughway. Merge onto NW Evangeline Throughway/US-167 S and continue East for ~3.5 miles until Evangeline Throughway/US 167 S turns into US-90 E. Turn Left onto LA 728-8 (Surrey Street). At the traffic light, turn left onto Fisher Road, then turn right at the stop sign. Vermilionville (300 Fisher Road) will be on the left. From the north on I-49, continue south on I-49 S/NW Evangeline Throughway/US-167 S. After crossing underneath I-10 continue south/east for ~3.5 miles until Evangeline Throughway/US 167 S turns into US-90 E. Turn left onto LA 728-8 (Surrey Street). At the traffic light, turn left onto Fisher Road, then turn right at the stop sign. Vermilionville (300 Fisher Road) will be on the left.
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