Friday, March 13, 2015

Headed North Up the Mississippi River Delta

After driving all the way down to Venice Louisiana…and the end of the road on the Mississippi River’s delta…then enjoying a good lunch, it was time to head back up the delta along the river.

As we drove north, we came across this structure at Plaquemines Bend on the Mississippi River.  This is what remains of Fort Jackson, the largest of 3 forts that were built along the lower reaches of the river to protect the port of New Orleans.  This property is owned by Plaquemines Parish and it’s located near the town of Triumph Louisiana. 

This is the main entrance to the Fort…complete with a bridge across a dry moat!  We didn’t have much time to look around as the Parish employee who was watching over the fort was just about ready to close up for the day.

Fort Jackson is located about 70 miles south of New Orleans on the western bank of the Mississippi.  The older Fort St. Philip is located opposite of Fort Jackson on the eastern bank.  This fort was constructed after the War of 1812, actually between 1822 and 1832, on the advice of Andrew Jackson.  The fort was named after him…  A third fort, Fort Bourbon was also located nearby but that site is now underwater.

The fort was garrisoned by a small force until 1842, when it was declared a military reservation by executive order of President John Tyler and the state took control.  With the coming of the Mexican War in 1846, Governor Isaac Johnson of Louisiana ceded the land to the National Government.  However these defenses were not needed during that War.  Both Fort Jackson and Fort St. Phillip remained garrisoned with just a few soldiers until seized by the State of Louisiana on January 8, 1861 when the state joined the Confederate States of America.

After the Civil War the forts at Plaquemines Bend were an on-again off-again matter.  Fort Jackson was used as a prison and later as a minor training base.  Gradually, much of the reservation was abandoned.  During the Spanish-American War in 1898, the Fort was repaired and modernized and two large coastal guns were installed.  During World War I (1917-1918), the Fort was again used as training base. After the war, both Forts Jackson and St. Phillip were declared surplus property and eventually sold.

Plaquemines Parish put a lot of resources into the revitalization of Fort Jackson after a local resident bought the property and deeded it to the Parish.  The goal was to transform the abandoned Fort and its 82 acre reservation, into an historical mecca for tourists and recreational center.

A levee was built to ring the Fort and protect it against high waters of the Mississippi River, then an automatic pumping station was installed which drained the water.  The property had become a jungle with mud-filled tunnels infested with snakes.  Mountains of slush were removed, the area cleared and an access road was built to the Fort and a parking area was added.  The brick walls were repaired or replaced, guns and gun replacements were refurbished and the moats and drains were opened.   

In addition, two multicolored fountains were installed on the turrets in the Spanish-American disappearing gun placements, a subsurface lighting system installed, a water system built, and wrought iron picket guards erected on top of the wall of the Fort to protect the tourists.  Identifying markers were installed so tourists could learn about the facility and a permanent relic and souvenir exhibit was established. 

Unfortunately, despite all of the effort and good intentions, along came Hurricane Katrina's storm surge in 2005.   Between Katrina and Hurricane Rita the following month, much of the fort sat under water for up to six weeks.  Many of the historic exhibits in the fort were destroyed, and the fort itself suffered structural damage. 

This is a view of the Mississippi River from the fort’s ramparts… I used my imagination to envision the Civil War Battle of Forts Jackson and St. Philip from April 16 to April 28, 1862.  The Confederate-controlled fort was besieged for 12 days by the fleet of U.S. Navy Flag Officer David Farragut. Fort Jackson fell on April 28 after the Union fleet bombarded it and then sailed past its guns, losing only one ship.  Combined casualties totaled about 1,000.  Following the engagement and its surrender, Fort Jackson was used as a Union prison.

To learn more about this key battle for the control of the lower Mississippi River, just go to

We wish we’d had a little more time to explore the Fort as there is a haunting beauty about the place.  Despite the hurricane damage, this is an interesting historical site.

Three or four days earlier I’d seen this ship, UBC’s bulk carrier “Baton Rouge and its crew of 30 headed upriver just below New Orleans.  In this photo the ship is anchored downriver from my earlier sighting.  As of this writing, the ship was moving east in the Gulf along the north coast of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.  It appeared to have just departed from the port of Merida. 

Dawn took this photo of my better half…Laurie…and me on the Mississippi river levee adjacent to Fort Jackson.  There were several ships anchored along the river nearby. 

This ship was also anchored in the river...probably waiting clearance to proceed upriver.  It’s the “E R Haden”.  She flies the Turkish flag and she’s based in Istanbul.   When I wrote this blog posting, this bulk carrier had recently departed from the Chinese port of Tianjin (formerly Tientsin) and was entering the Yellow Sea.

SAM Shipping’s vessel, “SAM Phoenix”, was headed downriver to the Gulf of Mexico.  This ship is owned by a Swiss consortium, (Shipping Asset Management), and she’s ‘flagged’ in Hong Kong.  It is one of SAM Shipping’s 9 vessels and she is basically a grain carrier. 

Laurie took this photo of Dawn Marie and me… Dawn was cold so she brought her car blanket with her to keep warm on this chilly and breezy day.  At least we had lots of sunshine!

The 2 photos above were taken by Laurie as we crossed the Empire High Rise Bridge near the town of Empire Louisiana.  Empire, combined with Venice, comprise the third biggest seafood port in the United States by weight.  Some two thousand boats home port from this port.  Species landed include oysters, shrimp, menhaden, and other types of fin fish.

Borrowed from Wikipedia, this photo shows Highway 23 following Katrina and the accompanying storm surge.  Much of the fleet that wasn’t sunk was dumped on or against the roadway.  Another disaster struck this area during the BP oil spill.  Seafood landings came to a halt.  Oyster fishing did not resume for an entire year.

I was a little frustrated by the time that we managed to fight the commuter traffic and board this ferry across the Mississippi at Terrytown Louisiana.  My goal had been to take the ferry across the river much further south at West Pointe a la Hache but that crossing was closed for maintenance. 

I like to seek out and take ferry boats but it was almost dark when we boarded and there was no way to get out of the car on the jammed deck.  I’m guessing that the closed ferry further south had forced everyone to use this option… Actually we were one of the last 2 or 3 cars allowed on the ferry boat for this crossing.

That’s about it for now… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by and helping us explore the Mississippi River delta!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

1 comment:

  1. After living in Vicksburg for many years I became fascinated with the River as well as the Civil War. Loved this post and the two pictures of you guys with the Mississippi behind you is Christmas card worthy. Please pass on to Dawn Marie that her car blanket made a very attractive Pashima.