Outdoor Corner: The Diversion Canal

Lyle Johnson
There it is. The prize winning floating room with a hot water heater.

The Diversion Canal is many different things to many different people. My grandfather, Roy Marchand Sr. built the 4th camp on Chinquapin Canal which is actually the Chene-Blanc Diversion Project that was dug in the early 50’s to divert flood waters from the Old Amite River to Chene Blanc then dumping into Blind River.

The origin of the big canal took place when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dug the Amite River Diversion Canal in the 1950s to prevent flooding during times of high water. A weir was built in to divert 20 percent of the Amite flood waters down the canal, and the remaining 80 percent was destined to head down the Amite.

Beginning near French Settlement, downstream of Port Vincent, the canal flows along the snaking boundary Bayou Pierre that is the Livingston-Ascension parish line, depositing water from the Amite into Blind River before emptying into Lake Maurepas. The project began in the early 50’s coming to completion in 1956.

My relationship with the Diversion began when I was very young. My dad and I fished all the time there for catfish and bass. The only place that any development began to take place was where Hilltop Inn is located, consisting of camps. How that has changed!

It was dug for flooding purposes. Once it was completed the natural use for this 10.6 mile, 300 ft.-wide canal with an average depth of 25’ was fishing. As things always progress, more camps came along. Eventually these river front properties were developed for homes, and that’s where we are today.

With river front populations increasing and boating becoming a very popular pastime, the river traffic exploded and even partially hosts one of the largest poker runs in the world. So the Diversion still is used for flood relief, fishing, homes on the river, boating, and nature lovers. It gets pretty crowded in the summertime.

One of the phenomenons that take place during a flood (minor or major) is the amount of “debris” that gets floated into the river system as the water rises. The basin of the Amite River starts in Amite County, Mississippi. There is a 75’ elevation drop from there to Lake Maurepas.

As the water begins to inundate the woods, swamp, and residential areas, everything that can float does so and eventually finds its way into the river system and heads downstream with the water.

This debris we speak of is virtually unlimited in scope. Certainly wood floats so trees, large branches, and even lumber is a big part of the mess. And that is sort of natural. But lots of other things float as well. Some of it is sickening.

Over the years I’ve gotten the chance to watch the “stuff” float by, either by boat from our camp on Chinquapin or now sitting on my pier on the Diversion. The wood makes up most of the debris. I’ll compile a list of things we see every time it floods.

Refrigerators and freezers are some of the larger components. Propane bottles, ice chests, tires and rims, plastic barrels, gas cans, and such also make up a sizeable portion of every event. Thousands and thousands (maybe millions) of Styrofoam cups, plastic water bottles, energy drinks, and anything made of plastic joins the parade as well. The size of the amount of debris would have to be measured in tons.

There is usually one “thing” that passes by that wins the prize for the most unusual. This time some of my family joined us on the pier for what turned out to be a “trash watching party.” We saw lots of stuff, and I even caught a 5-gallon gas can with gas in it with a rod and reel.

But the item that took the prize was an intact, partially built room of some kind. It had a 12’ X 12’ floor with one wall up with studs. On the top of the floor was a hot water heater. Yes, all in one piece. This has been going on for as long as there have been floods, since 1956. Where does it all go?

This week until Friday, the state of Louisiana has issued a proclamation that recognizes May 18-24 as “Safe Boating Week” in Louisiana, which signifies the beginning of the spring and summer boating season.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) will again be reminding all boaters to be safe, responsible, and knowledgeable while on the water during this safe-boating week. Safe Boating Week is a time for all boaters to inspect their vessels to ensure that all required safety equipment is on board and that vessels are in good working condition.

LDWF Enforcement Division agents will be out in full force as always during the week to perform boating safety checks and driving or operating a vessel while intoxicated (DWI) patrols.

Each vessel should have enough personal flotation devices (PFD) on board for all occupants and a sober operator. LDWF regulations also state that anyone 16 years of age and younger must wear a PFD while underway in vessels less than 26 feet long. For more boating and PFD regulations, please visit

Alcohol use is one of the leading causes of boating crash incidents and fatalities on the water. Alcohol consumption impairs a boater’s judgment, balance, vision and reaction time. The penalties for DWI on the water are the same as on the road. Anyone cited for a DWI on the water or on the road will lose his or her driver’s license and boating privileges for the specified time ordered by the judge in the case.

LDWF also wants to remind anybody born after Jan. 1, 1984 that they are required to successfully complete a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) boating education course to operate a motorboat over 10 horsepower. LDWF offers these classes free of charge statewide.

In 2018, Louisiana reported 20 boating fatalities. So far, in 2019 Louisiana has reported five fatalities. As always, remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard, be safe in the outdoors and may God truly bless you!

Lyle Johnson is a free-lance writer, co-host of Ascension Outdoors TV and Curator of the Louisiana State Fish Records. He can be contacted at

Outdoor Calendar

EASL Monthly Meeting:3rd Monday every month, East Ascension Sportsman’s League meeting held at Gonzales Fire Dept. on Orice Roth Rd. starting at 7 p.m. A meal served and special speaker will be in attendance.

Wednesday Evening Bass Tourney: Every Wednesday at Canal Bank from 5 p.m. until dark. Fee $40/boat, one time registration fee of $40 going toward the Classic Tournament. Weekly event through spring, summer. Call Canal Bank for information 225 695-9074.

Friday Night Bass Tourney:Every Friday night at False River 7 p.m.-midnight. Launch at La Express in Jarreau. Fee $40/boat (two-angler boats; pay at store before launching). Weekly event through spring, summer. Call Storm Randall 225-937-0489.

Spring Squirrel Season: May 4 thru May 26, is open statewide on private lands only. Daily bag limit 3, possession limit 9. Open on some state Wildlife Management Area’s but closed on all federal lands.

South La Highpower Club Shooting Match: May 26— 8:30 a.m., Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Range, St. Landry Road, Gonzales. NRA match rifle or service rifle, 200-yard/50-rounds match course. Fee $12 members, $15 nonmembers, $5 juniors. $15 annual club & Civilian Marksmanship Program membership (allows purchases from CMP). Call George Serrett 225-389-6118. Email:

Anything Outdoors Helping Kids Frog Rodeo: Postponed until June 15 due to high water. Save the date!!

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