2018 Paddle Lafourche leaves Donaldsonville

Greg Fischer Editor-in-chief
A paddle parade about to pass!

Paddle, paddle, splish, splash and this year's Bayou Lafourche kayak explorers are off!

The group looked bigger than last year. Mary Catherine Pfalzgraf from Kenner and Kathryn Israel from Westwego were two newcomers who spoke to The Chief this year about their excitement for the trip.

Mayor Leroy Sullivan gave the group some inspirational words on the shore before they left. City Council Chairman Raymond Aucoin and Donaldsonville Downtown Development District Director Lee Melancon attended the annual starting ceremony. The Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year Chuck Montero was on hand to record the event in photographs, alongside The Chief.

The group will travel all the way to Lockport each year, learning not only about the region's reliance on Bayou Lafourche for clean drinking water, but also the Native American history of the waterway.

The event has been in existence since 2001. It was initially a project designed to help educate people about the value of the bayou as a drinking water source. Many people were unaware of the value of the source water. By encouraging the public to paddle or kayak down the bayou, with an organized BTNEP group leader, people were better able to understand the value of the resource.

According to BTNEP, Bayou Lafourche provides drinking water to over 300,000 people in the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary system. Parishes that get drinking water from Bayou Lafourche include: Ascension, Assumption, Lafourche, and Terrebonne. The water is also used by offshore oil and gas communities as their potable water. Additionally, the bayou helps to replenish our coastal marshes with much needed fresh water.

Today, Paddle Lafourche highlights the work of the Bayou Lafourche Fresh Water District (BLFWD) in partnership with the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) working for years to bring more fresh water down the bayou through a project called the Mississippi River Reintroduction to Bayou Lafourche Project (MRRBL).

Just last year, that project held a ribbon cutting in Donaldsonville, attended by Rep. Garret Graves and others who pushed for the project to come to fruition. It had been decades in the making, so to speak.

While Paddle Bayou Lafourche still has water quality and wetlands education as a mainstay of its mission, the project has grown to include historical, cultural, and economical experiences. The event also encourages ecotourism within the estuary.

All-in-all Paddle Bayou Lafourche is a 52-mile, 4-day adventure that winds its way through a number of rural communities and small cities. Paddlers are treated to scenic natural vistas, and a fascinating “backyard view” of this historic bayou from Donaldsonville to Lockport.

Moreover, Donaldsonville has been inspired by the event, and the idea has been touched upon in the city's most recent leadership conferences about turning the Donaldsonville portion of the bayou into a recreation area.

Paddle Bayou Lafourche has stated that the goal of the event is to help create a sense of stewardship and pride for the environment. Paddlers may also choose which day or days they would like to participate. Whatever the case may be, participants are said to enjoy the bonding, camaraderie, and sense of accomplishment that comes from going the distance on Bayou Lafourche. They are locals, as well as people from out of state and other countries.

One of these days, The Chief / Weekly is going to find time to partake.

Click here to see all of our photos from this year's event.