The atchafalaya basin
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The Atchafalaya Basin. Jonah D. Price April 6, 2005. Where is the Atchafalaya?. Its located in Southern Louisiana Covers 595,000 acres Largest river overflow in North America Largest Contiguous forested wetland . Forested Swamp. Bottomland Hardwoods. Threats.

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The Atchafalaya Basin

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The Atchafalaya Basin

Jonah D. Price April 6, 2005

Where is the Atchafalaya?

  • Its located in Southern Louisiana

  • Covers 595,000 acres

  • Largest river overflow in North America

  • Largest Contiguous forested wetland

Forested Swamp

Bottomland Hardwoods


  • Development, associated with population growth

  • Agriculture

  • Logging

  • Pollution

  • Manipulation of river systems


  • Destruction of 3760 acres 1932-1990

  • Erosion

  • Natural Conversion

  • Storm and Hurricanes

  • Oil and gas pipelines

The Army Corps

  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been acquiring land since1988 for several different purposes.

  • Flood Control Purposes

    Atchafalaya Floodway System

  • Wildlife habitat conservation

  • Public recreation

The Atchafalaya Floodway System

  • 50,000 acres of the land is in-fee for public use.

  • They also hope to have 33800 acres on purchase easements.

  • To date they have approximately only 32,000acres.

  • The fee-owned public areas will be opened for use.

Water Flow Through the Basin

  • Mississippi River

  • Atchafalaya river flows 226,760cfs with a sediment load of 88,223000 tons.

  • Wax lake takes 38% of the river flow and 35% of the sediment.

  • Lower Atchafalaya River

  • Gulf of Mexico


  • Some effects from the channeling are good.

  • Increased sediment deposition

  • Other effect are dead zones

  • Stagnate water which has caused crawfish production to go down.


  • In the Atchafalya Delta exposed land has increased from 10,000 acres to 19,000 acres in 1995.

Sedimentation Ex.

Is all this Sedimentation good?

  • Plants such as duck potato vegetate the small islands (i.e. deltas) and provide excellent waterfowl habitat.

  • The placement of sediment from dredging make land in these areas and that land is proving to be good mottled duck habitat for their colonial nesting.

Sedimentation Cont.

  • Older islands do move on though and stand of willow take hold and have shown to make great wading bird rookeries.

  • Supplemental planting of oaks on these areas help to feed the rising deer population in these areas.

Disturbances Cont.

  • Exotic Species

  • Water lettuce

  • Water-Milfoil

  • Alligator weed

  • Water hyacinth (hydrilla)

Effects of Exotics

  • Crowding out of native plants such as frog bit

  • The dense mat of some exotic vegetation block out some submerged vegetation such as coontail

Why is the basin important?

  • Fecundity three and one half times that of the everglades

  • 1000 and over pounds of fish per acre

  • 70 species of fish

  • 100 different types of plants have been documented

  • 200 species of birds identified

  • 60 species of reptiles found

Why is the Atchafalaya Unique?

  • It’s a growing delta system

  • The wetlands located there are considered nearly stable. Wetland loss between 1932-1990 is only 3760 acres.

Importance to Birds

  • Vital staging area for migratory birds

  • Provide food and resources for their long flights.

  • Breeding Bird Habitat

  • One half the migratory species of North America flyway use this area each year.

Migratory Waterfowl

  • Internationally Important Bird Area

  • American Woodcock

  • Wood Ducks

Public Uses

  • 1# in public waterfowl hunting in the nation

    • Atchafalaya Delta Wildlife Management Area

    • Pleasure boating

    • Cultural uses (Chart)

Public Uses Cont.

  • Sport Fishing

  • Species Found

Cultural Uses

Cultural Uses and Economic Value

  • 23 Million Pounds of Crawfish Annually

  • Craw fishing is in a way Louisiana cash crop and their state symbol.

  • Two year of craw fishing in the 70 paid for a house and a new truck for craw fisher Roy Blanchard.

  • Over all it’s a way of life

What is Being Done?

Atchafalaya National Heritage ActPurposes

  • (1) to conserve, restore, promote, and interpret the significant resource values and functions of the Atchafalaya Basin area and advance sustainable economic development of the area;

Atchafalaya National Heritage ActPurposes Con.

  • (2) to foster a close working relationship with all levels of government, the private sector, and the local communities in the area so as to enable those communities to conserve their heritage while continuing to pursue economic opportunities; and

Atchafalaya National Heritage ActPurposes Con

  • (3) to establish, in partnership with the State, local communities, preservation organizations, private corporations, and landowners in the Heritage Area, the Atchafalaya Trace State Heritage Area, as eligible parishes designated by the Louisiana Legislature, as the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area.


  • The Atchafalaya is Important

  • Wildlife Uses

  • Diversity

  • Cultural value

  • Public uses

Works Cited






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