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Connecting Poverty Point State Historic Site to Poverty Point Reservoir State Park

This waterway meanders through the site of the largest, earliest and most advanced American Society, Poverty Point, where 2-3,000 people lived from 1650BC - 1100BC, predating Confucius, Christ and the flowering of Ancient Greece.

Getting there:

Poverty Point State Historic Site
6859 Pioneer Highway 577
Pioneer, LA  71266
(318) 926-5492 or (888) 926-5492
Email:  [email protected]

Poverty Point State Park
1500 Poverty Point Parkway
Delhi, LA  71232
(318) 878-7536 or (800) 474-0392 toll free
Email:  [email protected]                 

Directions:

Poverty Point State Historic Site: From I-20, take the Delhi exit and travel north on LA 17, east on LA 134 and north on LA 577. GPS Coordinates: N 32 38.2500; W 91 24.4164.

Access points:

There is currently no boat ramp at Poverty Point State Historical Site, but plans are under way for the placement of one in the future.  Check with park officials about the best place to put in for the 11.9-mile section of Bayou Macon Poverty Point to State Park Boat Ramp.

Nearest towns:

Delhi
Epps
Lake Providence
Oak Grove
Bastrop
Monroe
Vicksburg, MS

Trail length:

There are two possible routes: 11.9-mile paddle for experienced paddlers and a 6.5-mile paddle for beginners. The total length of the trail from the historic park to the reservoir park is 18.4 miles.  

Twelve miles of flat water paddling for a beginning paddler could be an all-day adventure.  Beginners can count on making 1-2 miles/hour.  Advanced paddlers can do 2-3 miles/hour.  The strongest paddlers can of course go even faster.  Regardless, check the mileage of your route and make enough time for your ability.

Skill level:

If you are a beginning  paddler you could go straight to the State Park Boat Ramp and make a round trip paddle of any distance.  Park your vehicle at the ramp and paddle upstream as far as you want, turn around and paddle back with the river flow helping you return.

The full length of the trail is for more advanced paddlers with greater endurance.

The difficulty level is easy. This flat water paddle has no topography changes. Pick length according to your strength as a paddler.  First section (11.8 miles) is long for beginners; second section is more doable for beginners at 6.5 miles with no snags or blockages of any sort.  It can be run at any water level, but check with park officials about any possible local changes.  During periods of high water currents could be swift.

As with all southern rivers, water levels can vary on Bayou Macon and will have significant impact on water speed, safety and usability.  Pay attention to descriptions throughout and decide when it is best to paddle based on your ability and the water level.

Note: There is a dangerous unmarked lowhead dam (or weir) not far downstream of the Highway 80 bridge.  There is no concern during low water, but it could be catastrophic in fast water. 

River levels:

Go to www.RiverGages.com and view the river gage for Como, La., for the best indication of river conditions in this section of river. Como is south of this section, so what you see on the charts will have already happened on the river. Low water (too shallow) is below 36 on the Como gage (when some dragging through shallows and mud flats might be necessary).  Ideal level: 40-50 on the Como gage.  Above 55 on the Como gage, the current will be swift and extra caution is advised.  Flood Stage: 62 on the Como Gage.  During the hot dry months of the summer and fall, regional farmers depend on Bayou Macon for irrigation, which sometimes affects local water levels.

Historic Levels: Looking at historical data for the Bayou Macon from the past ten years, the river typically runs around 36 feet on the Como Gage with spikes due to rainfall and runoff, sometimes spiking up to 60 feet or higher.  Bankful is at 62 feet, a level it has reached only two times in the past ten years.  During the Mississippi River Flood of 2011 Bayou Macon stayed high for several months due to the amount of water seeping under the levee and emerging in all of the oxbow lakes, bayous and drainages, such as Chicot Lake, Arkansas, where Bayou Macon is born.

Trail description (11.8 miles):

Paddling Bayou Macon is an enlightening step back in time.  On this dusky meandering waterway you will travel from ancient civilization through the belly of the Louisiana cotton kingdom to arrive back in modern times.  It’s a journey through time where you will enjoy birding and wildlife viewing.  The water is flat most of the year.

Start below Poverty Point weir (check on this) and paddle down the gently meandering Bayou Macon, its deep banks and tall trees make for a lot of shade and protection from the wind.  Every time you come around a bend be vigilant for turtles and birds, which will immediately jump into the water or the air as soon as they see you, sometimes hundreds of yards downstream.  If you hope to get any photos, keep your camera handy.

 Bayou Macon flows along the eastern edge of Macon Ridge, a short plateau just high enough to protect anyone who settles on it from flood waters; hence this side of the river is more populated, from 6000BC forward.  Macon Ridge is a loess formation, the result of accumulations of wind-blown glacial dust following the melting glaciers of last ice age.  The small creeks, springs, streams and bayous that enter the river from the ridge side (west) are sandy and often clear flowing. Where they enter the river, sandbars are formed which become perfect places for landing a canoe or kayak and making a picnic.  The sandbars can become overgrown with vegetation, but usually narrow slivers of sand can be found, and the sand will be regenerated in any future high waters.  A notable picnic spot is found on the small bar created by Alligator Bayou (mile 5.7).

For the adventuresome paddle, point your nose into one of these side-creeks and follow them as far as you can where the water has carved deep slot-canyons into the muddy banks of the bayou.  You will be rewarded with primeval scenes of dark shadowed muddy landscapes, angled sunlight filtering down from above through often humid air, gnarly tree roots falling on either side with unique vegetation and close-up encounters with flowering plants, amphibians, insects (notably butterflies and moths) and possibly wild animals.  In warm seasons, beware of snakes.  The largest trees in the area grow in some of these depressions, just far enough beyond the reach of logging equipment to be protected.  Palmetto grows along the base of some of these giant cypresses, oaks, sycamore and cottonwood.

As you follow the path of the twisty bayou, you will pass openings with views over expansive cotton, corn, soybean and milo fields.  Mile two will take you past Jackson’s Landing (west bank), a foregone steamboat landing where 500 pound bales of cotton were once loaded onto black-smoke belching steamboats bound for New Orleans and from there to the textile mills of Liverpool, England.  For fuel in these once remote outposts, the steamboats gathered driftwood and cut dead trees along the river.  Over the east bank in this section once existed the town of Monticello which was wiped clean off the map by a powerful tornado in the early 1900s.

The first unmistakable landmark in this section is the steel bridge at mile .75,which is an old style steel truss bridge.  These types of bridges are a dying breed, being replaced by concrete slab-span bridges.  As such, they have become a point of interest for photographers.  The second unmistakable landmark in this section is the Murphy Bridge at mile five.   Mayburn Landing is on the west bank and Free Ferry Landing to the east, the site of an abandoned ferry crossing and steamboat landing.  You might scare out white-tailed deer rounding some of these bends of the river; they like to nest down in the thick cool vegetation below the riverbank for the mid-day naps.  At mile nine  you’ll pass Mackey Landing, and then the mouth of Cypress Bayou (locally known as Valentine Ditch), which enters the Macon through three large drainage pipes which form a small harbor.  Below Cypress Bayou you are entering the deep forests of Bluecat Hunting Club (left bank descending) which is purported to house the richest population of Louisiana Black Bear in these parts.  You would be extremely lucky to spot one of these reclusive bruins, but with careful inspection and maybe a little luck you will see their giant tracks, which will be immediately confirmed by their great size and lumpy shape.  Bears walk with the claws out, so you will of course see them in their tracks and be awestruck if not humbled.

The bayou wanders several miles through these woods.  At mile 11.8 west bank you will pass a tall grassy levee, and directly downstream at mile 11.9 is the State Park Boat Launch, an ideally designed ramp with plenty of room for maneuvering and parking, albeit steep.  Just below that you will hear a diesel donkey engine bellowing through the wilderness. This is the main pump for the reservoir, which starts here at the west bank and runs downstream almost all the way to Delhi.

Poverty Point State Park starts south of the levee and boat ramp west bank.  You can take out here, or make camp, or rent a cabin.  Or if you are a strong paddler you might opt for continuing on for the remaining six-mile paddle down to the Highway 80 Bridge at Delhi.

State park ramp to Delhi (6.5 miles):

This is a slightly less interesting section of the Bayou Macon, but still worthy of paddling.  The landscape subtly changes as the Macon Ridge becomes less prominent and the forest becomes drier and thicker with locusts, sycamores, cottonwoods and willows. Some of the land is used for grazing cattle.  Some tallow trees are found along the bank, and more and more swamp-like vegetation can be seen from the canoe.

Continuing on down the bayou past the boat ramp, the river opens up noticeably and the current lessens, partly due to some dredging and channelization done in the 1960s.  You will start seeing more and more waders, that water-loving class of birds that includes white pelicans, herons, egret, storks, roseate spoonbill and anhinga.  Bald eagles have been sighted here, as well as osprey and harriers.

As you paddle along, watch carefully for old oxbows of the Bayou Macon that were isolated during channelization.  At most water levels you can paddle into one of these lakes for a view of  classic deep south scenery, Spanish moss draped cypress full of egrets and waters thick with turtles, snakes and that most famous of all southern amphibians, the American alligator.  Big gators have been seen in these oxbows.  Caution: children especially should stay in their vessels.  Watch your pets, if you are carrying any.  You will pass four oxbows, one at mile 13.5, one at 14.1, one at 14.7 and the last at 16.1.  The first and last are accessible from the river at medium to high water levels, but the middle two have been incorporated into the Poverty Point Lake and cut off by the levee.

Along a wooded bend of the river at mile 15.5 you will paddle underneath the four cabins of Poverty Point Reservoir State Park which overlook the Bayou Macon and can be rented.  These are popular sites, so make your reservations well in advance.

Some manmade landmarks in this section of the Bayou include a high-voltage transmission line (mile 15.9), an oil pipeline, a natural gas pipeline, and several openings through the west bankside woods where you could clamber up the levee and get a view over the reservoir.

Paddling around the last bend in this section at mile 18 you will see the Highway 80 Bridge downstream and should start making plans for your final approach.  BEWARE: There is a dangerous weir not far below this take-out.  The boat ramp is under the bridge bank right (west bank).  You will see a stout pier sticking out into the channel which you can tie your vessel to if you don’t want to run it up the ramp.

The Highway 80 Boat Ramp is a steep concrete ramp and always accessible.  Beware lowhead dam 200 yards downstream.  This ramp is located within the Delhi City Park on the eastern edge of town.  Camping is OK with permission, but not recommended.  The best choice for camping is at Poverty Point Reservoir State Park.

What you will see:

Possible wildlife sighting include wild turkey, white-tailed deer, lots of birds-especially egrets, pileated woodpeckers, blue jays and kingfishers.  Be on the look-out for waders: pelicans, herons, egret, storks, roseate spoonbill and anhinga. The best time to view animals is either early in the morning or late in the day. Best time for birding; all day, but especially towards dawn and dusk.

Lodging:

Poverty Point State Park has cabins overlooking Bayou Macon with a giant lake on the other side.  Rent a cabin and make several day trips from these beautifully-situated cabins with large screened-in porches.  There is great birding on the lake and on this lower section of Bayou Macon.

Poverty Point State Park
1500 Poverty Point Parkway
Delhi, LA 71232
(318) 878-7536 or (800)474-0392 toll free
Reservations call:  1-877-CAMP-N-LA (877-226-7652) toll free.
Email:[email protected]

Appropriate craft:

Choose a canoe, kayak or paddleboard.

Tips for paddlers:

Carry plenty of drinking water in the summer and fall months to prevent dehydration.  During the winter months carry extra warm clothing as well as an emergency kit including fire-starting materials in case of emergency.  Hypothermia is a risk in the winter.

Always pack your overnight gear just in case you have an unexpected delay (such as severe thunderstorm or medical emergency). This paddle is through a remote, rural area with few services.

Watch for poisonous plants and venomous snakes. 

GPS coordinates for Poverty Point to State Park (11.9 miles):

LBD = Left Bank Descending

RBD = Right Bank Descending

Note on GPS readings:

1)      using the decimal system

2)      left out negative sign on all longitudinal readings,

ie: web designer & map-maker should use -91 throughout

Poverty Point State Historical Site Weir

N32.630567
W91.400755

Steel Bridge Hwy 134/577

N32.62048
W91.405307

Mouth of Alligator Bayou

West Bank (RBD)

Jackson’s Landing

West Bank (RBD)

N32.603347
W91.41055

Murphy Bridge Hwy 877

N32.590968
W91.434658

Mayburn Landing

West Bank (RBD)

N32.590968
W91.434658

Free Ferry

East Bank (LBD)

N32.590968
W91.434658

Mackey Landing

East Bank (LBD)

N32.558403
W91.433152

Cypress Bayou (Valentine Ditch)

East Bank (LBD)

N32.542738
W91.440135

State Park Boat Launch

West Bank (RBD)

N32.531942
W91.470465

State Park Ramp to Delhi (6.5 miles)

Poverty Point Reservoir State Park
Boat Launch
West Bank (RBD)

N32.531942
W91.470465

Oxbow Lake #1
East Bank (LBD)
Mile 13.5

N32.516855
W91.472855

Oxbow Lake #2
(incorporated into lake & inaccessible due to levee)
Mile 14.1

West Bank (RBD)

N32.506287
W91.480236

Oxbow Lake #3
(incorporated into lake & inaccessible due to levee)
Mile 14.7

West Bank (RBD)

N32.482735
W91.48538

Oxbow Lake #4

West Bank (RBD)
Mile 16.1

N32.482687
W91.485472

Four Cabins for Rent
Poverty Point Reservoir State Park

West Bank (RBD)
Mile 15.5

N32.491122
W91.483111

High Voltage Transmission Line

Mile 15.9

N32.484688
W91.4858

Natural Gas Pipeline Crossing

N32.47169
W91.484193

US Hwy 80 Boat Ramp

N32.457487
W91.476205

DANGER:

Low head Dam

200 yards downstream of Hwy 80 bridge

N32.456417
W91.475832

Acknowledgements:

John Ruskey, Quapaw Canoe Company, Clarksdale, MS, paddling trail developer
Dennis LaBatt, Retired Poverty Point Historical Park Manager
David Griffing, Poverty Point Historical Park Manager
Kyle Bernis, Assistant Manager at Poverty Point Reservoir State Park
Dr. Stuart Johnson, Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, State Parks
Dora Ann Hatch, LSU AgCenter Agritourism Coordinator and coordinator of the Ecotourism Project for Northeast Louisiana