Beauties of the Teche

Jim Bradshaw

Poets and planters from the early days of settlement in the old Attakapas region of south Louisiana called Bayou Teche one of the prettiest streams in the nation.
Publisher William Dennett of the Franklin Planters’ Banner joined that chorus in the edition of April 5, 1849. It was a time when a Tour of the Teche was something far different than the modern event, but even today — 165 years later — there are stretches of the bayou very reminiscent of those steamboat days.
“Few who even live in this parish realize the beauties of this lovely and noted bayou,” he wrote. “Yet it has beauties of no common stamp. Let him who wishes to see its loveliness, and feel it too, mount the hurricane deck of one of our gallant steamers as she ploughs her way upon her winding course from the Atchafalaya to St. Martinville. The broad Mississippi, itself a world of waters, silent bayous with margins clothed in overhanging verdure, lakes, passes, and the tide of the Atchafalaya have all been left behind, and the steamer enters the quiet waters of the Teche, and unobtrusively steals along toward the termination of her route.
“As you pass along, on the one hand you behold verdant forests clothed in luxuriant foliage, and on the other, thrifty plantations, fields, pastures, quiet dwellings, and costly and imposing sugar houses, groves, prairies, landings and villages. You pass ancient and venerable oaks whose giant arms stretch far over the still waters of the bayou, their foliage ever green, and their locks of hanging, waving moss reminding one that these fathers of the forest have stood here for centuries, silently witnessing the changes which time is ever producing.
“In the rear of these venerable forms stands the erect and lofty cypress, whose top waves in majesty far above the surrounding forest trees, and stands as a lordly sentinel, on a spot marked out by nature, to take cognizance of passing events. Sometimes these lords of the forest are clothed with verdant vines entwining limb and trunk with an instinctive vegetable affection, throwing around them a robe of living verdure as if to protect them from the rough storms of life. At some points the banks of the bayou are clothed with a rich growth of myrtle and other smaller shrubbery whose luxuriance and beauty are grateful to the eye.
“An alligator may be occasionally seen at the going down of the sun, ploughing his way through the smooth surface of the bayou, with the upper parts of his … snout, his ‘pop eyes’ and rough back elevated above the water—at midday the same native of the Teche may be seen stretched, ‘high and dry’ on an old log, basking in the hot sun.
“At some seasons of the year, vessels may be seen lying at anchor in the bayou, at different plantations, taking in sugar and molasses for northern ports. It is not uncommon for six or more steamboats to ply regularly between this place and N. Orleans, and their arrivals and departures are always sources of interest to all who live on the bayou. Their stately appearance as they pass up and down is an interesting spectacle, and adds much to the general appearance of the country.”
The 135-mile Tour du Teche canoe, kayak, and pirogue race from Port Barre to Berwick will be held Oct. 3 through Oct. 5 this year.
You can contact Jim Bradshaw at jimbradshaw4321@gmail.com or P.O. Box 1121, Washington LA 70589.

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