Lake Bistineau, near Heflin, Louisiana: drawn down seven feet from July 15, 2008-January 30, 2009. Yearly dewatering of the 200-year old lake to the maximum drawdown rate has been the only control measure which has provided significant results in reducing the giant salvinia, a free floating aquatic fern native to Brazil. Doubling in biomass every 3-5 days, the invader proliferates at a tremendous rate and causes havoc for recreational activities in northwestern Louisiana. Lake Bistineau—a long, narrow waterway encompassing 17,200 acres—was formed in 1800, when several thousand acres of land flooded because of a major log jam in the Red river.
I found it quite interesting to learn that during the Civil War, King’s Salt Works, located on Lake Bistineau, employed up to 1,500 men in salt-making. According to the historian, John D. Winters in The Civil War in Louisiana: “Water was taken from the brine wells and springs and boiled in huge pots and pans, and the wet salt further dried in the sun. As the war continued, the price of salt increased, and more and more people engaged in the salt industry.” (Internet)
Could salt be used to destroy giant salvinia in the 200-year old Lake Bistineau? Salt would indeed eradicate giant salvinia, but it would also kill the ancient bald cypress. Consequently, salt is not a reasonable solution for eliminating the salvinia infestation, and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries battles for control over the thriving invader.
Precious friends: Friends whose property backs up to Lake Bistineau; friends whose 25-year friendship I’ve been allowed to walk with through life-threatening illnesses and family tragedies while living in Arkansas; friends my husband and I visited in the autumns of 2003 and 2008.
Our friendship was born one Saturday morning in the late 1980’s at a craft fair in Eldorado, Arkansas. By the end of this particular day, my fellow crafter’s husband was fighting for his life at the local medical facility—later to be diagnosed with Guillain-Barre’—and I was manning two craft booths. From this life crisis and milestone in our relationship, we have bore each other’s burdens in deeds and prayers throughout the years.
In particular, the hospital visit and treasured sweet-tasting gift I received in July 1990 while recuperating from major surgery have been vividly etched in my mind and can be intimately re-lived yet at this moment. The shoulder massage two days after surgery, the bite into a huge, delectable Arkansas peach whose juices I can still feel trickling down my chin and forearm, and the tender care provided before, during, and after surgery by another sweet Arkansas peach.
God’s delicate love touches experienced through one of His willing servants. Forever grateful.
We both re-located from our south Arkansas residences in the 90’s: they to Heflin, Louisiana and we to Lincoln, Nebraska in 1993. Now years later the two autumn visits—five years apart—were cherished reunions yet so very different for this sometimes overzealous photographer.
Encouraged paddling in the surrounding backwaters of the Lake Bistineau late one afternoon, my daring husband and I agreed far too quickly to this once-in-a-lifetime mystery cruise through the old cypress forest, Spanish moss dangling just above our heads. Eerie senses of foreboding just around every bayou bend abounded.
Losing our way slicing through huge cypress knees or veering from the channel’s directing force foremost in our minds—everything looked the same under the cypress canopy. Seasonal shades of late-evening yellows and oranges glowed atop the lofty cypress, indications of fading light in the shadowy autumn forest. I kept snapping pictures in the dimming daylight!
A repeat tour of Lake Bistineau backwaters occurred the next morning—cooler temperatures, better lighting, and stronger legs. With a good night’s rest and a quest for additional one-of-a-kind images, I buried my fears of dangling reptiles hidden in Spanish moss in the muddy waters. My husband and I both felt more at ease in our newest natural environment and paddled for hours in remote areas.
All was well until it came time for me to step from the paddle boat at docking. My life before me as my hands clenched and clung to the grassy edge of the embankment—screaming—three-fourths of my body submerged in the stagnant, stinky, black darkness. My strength realized at that instance of time and forever grateful for a life jacket. My husband looked on helplessly. The rest of this 2003 Louisiana visit with our long-time friends was a smelly affair…but a good one.
Much of Lake Bistineau drained, exposed, drawn down to strand the salvinia. If there was ever a time I knew of photographer’s bliss, this was it. The 1.5 hour trudge across spongy earth unhindered—with two cameras and a cell phone—beneath water-level cypress knees which skirted the massive trunks—pure delight. I felt intrusive at times in a secret, mysterious environment…alone with my thoughts, alone with my cameras, alone with ancient cypress….alone.
To think I had walked directly into Lake Bistineau at the precise location of my 2003 dunk and to also cruise on foot the bottom of this very old lake—privileged. Time was lost in the shadowy mazes of massive trunks, protrusive knees, squishy needles and vegetation, and dangling Spanish moss. What had been so long covered up in a twisty watery darkness now exposed to the light of day.
I was on a self-appointed photographer’s safari…a hunt for the unusual, the unique, and the unknown…a trophy for my digital database. Capturing my ancient subjects in the middle of the day lighting was rather difficult, but nonetheless my brush with a mysterious walk in the deep a memorable excursion chronicled in several images below.
Additional images can be seen at www.corinthrose.com under This N’ That. Thank you for exploring a mysterious cypress forest with me as seen both from above water level and below.