The first of Four seasons...the Atchafalaya Basin ( Photos/article by Tryve Brackin)
When old friend Gene Seneca offered to take me into the Atchafalaya Basin to take photographs I jumped at the opportunity.
Seneca, who recently went to Epcot as a special Atchafalaya National Heritage Area Storyteller, thought the idea of photographing the four seasons of the year in America’s largest alluvial bottomland and swamp would be a great boost to the National Heritage program, which is greatly supported by the Iberville Parish Council and other parishes which claim heritage land.
Last Thursday afternoon was perfect for photographing with blue skies and late winter lighting. We saw few of the many species of creatures that call the basin home because of the winter season hibernation, but a variety of birds were found here and there and we spotted one small alligator.
Seneca knew of a cove where he had repeatedly seen alligators either swimming about or sunning themselves on the banks. As soon as he pulled his boat into the cove we spotted a small gator sunning on the bank. When he heard the boat motor he dove into the water and hid behind a small patch of floating lilies, rising only his eyes above the water line to obverse us with a bit of curiosity. He soon grew bored of us and disappeared. Gene had several photos from the basin he had taken a couple of weeks ago and he gave me one of a gator he had snapped in the vicinity for our readers’ viewing.
Seneca, who worked for the telephone company for twenty years before retiring, showed us a new line of cable and telephone poles recently replaced after Hurricane Gustav. He also showed us where an old railroad line once made its way through Henderson Swamp. Along one high embankment built for the old railroad, Gene showed us a large train wheel and other abandoned railroad equipment just at the water line.
“That stuff is a serious danger to boaters when the water is higher. People who are new to the area do not know it is right there underneath the higher water and ready to rip a huge hole in their boats if they hit it,” cautioned the basin veteran.
Seneca knows much of the basin, but certainly not all of it.
“It’s too big, but I have seen a lot of it and know my way around certain areas very, very well. I have seen a lot of creatures in the basin, but the one I have heard is around and about, but I have never seen, is the black bear,” noted Seneca.
Seneca can tell you a lot about the history of the cypress trees and why many are down to stumps. He can tell you about the life and times of his dad’s old home on Bayou Chene, which is now gone. He can tell you about how the oil industry changed a lot of nature of the basin with its now abandoned oil platforms. He can tell you a lot about the Atchafalaya. But then I have three more trips and visits to make the four seasons and listen to him.
We departed Seneca’s boat to head back to Plaquemine around 4 p.m. and as we drove off, he casually walked back to his boat. He was planning to stay for sunset and an evening ride home to Grosse Tete.
“My wife got me a cell phone, so I can check in and stay a little longer when I come out here. I enjoy lying in my boat, alone with the swamp, watching the sun go down in the west. There are few things better,” said the naturalist.