LAKE D’ARBONNE BEFORE THERE WAS A LAKE

Posted: February 10, 2013 in thomas t fields jr.
Tags: , , , , ,

Many evenings I will stand on the deck of my friends camp and look down onto the beautiful waters of Lake D’Arbonne shimmering in the glow of a full moon some fifty feet below the camp’s platform. The view from the Corney Creek bluffs near the bridge is reminiscent of the Shenandoah Valley. Looking at the lake from the Spillway provides a breath taking view of the great expanse of water that provides boaters with an open area to ski and ride.
A few feet below the surface lies the unseen ancient beds of bayous and feeder creeks that originally made up Bayou D’Arbonne. Names that identify different geographical areas of the lake are actually named for the tributaries that form the lake. Names such as Corney, Stowe Creek, Middlefork, Little D’Arbonne are in fact forgotten waterways that once provided transportation for the local inhabitants and helped to feed native Americans and early European pioneers that formed the human element of Union parish. Points such as Forks Ferry and Phillips Ferry note places on the Bayou that allowed a person to cross the bayou.
In the mid-sixties the gates of massive Lake D’arbonne we closed and the waters of Bayou D’Arbonne backed up and flooded the 15,000 acres that we now enjoy. Prior to the inundation of the lake bed the landscape was quit different. As a child one of the best places to put in a boat was at Forks Ferry. There were no true concrete boat launches on the bayou so you had to find a place where the land gently sloped into the water’s edge. Forks ferry was the point where Corney and Little D’Arbonne converged and formed D’Arbonne. A boat could be taken up Corney and you would pass under the truss bridge across the bayou. What are now the boat launch access roads near Corney Creek were then old highway 2 and the old bridge connected the two sections of the road. A similar bridge spanned D’Arbonne Bayou and connected the road that led to Ruston. Like the Bernice side of the lake, the old road now provides access to public boat launches.
If you took your boat up Little D’Arbonne you would encounter fishermen in flat bottom boats. Many were paddled and few had an outboard greater than ten horsepower. When pulling into a stump filled slew with cypress limbs hanging low you had to be ever watchful for snake that could unexpectedly fall into the boat. I had made my mind up long ago that if a cotton mouth wanted the run of the inside of my boat, it was all his. Not only were the trees a point of caution but the logs and stumps served as a good resting point for both snakes and turtles. When I say snakes, I’m not talking about little water snakes. I’m referring to reptiles that were huge! At least as a child they appeared to be that large.
At night the critters came out of the dark and pursued supper. The more adventurous members of the community would go forth in search of the giant bull frog or an evening of night fishing. Before the six volt powered head lights were in general use and long before the LED cap lights that are now becoming very popular, the sportsman would light the night with carbide lanterns attached the head. These lanterns burned a bright light from gas produces when carbide encountered water. Boats were propelled with an eight foot pole with a paddle on one end and a frog gig on the other. Of course you had to be careful of the ever present cotton mouth that was also looking for a frog supper.
Life was different in those days and even though it was a simpler life the ability to enjoy the great outdoors was limited to those that had to endure the hardships of a wild and untamed section of North Louisiana.
I hope many of you have enjoyed the interview of Alvin Greene in the Monroe paper. He spoke of the efforts to get Lake D’Arbonne. Within the next few weeks I will provide insight into the political side of what went on to secure funding for the lake.

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