Louisiana's Atchafalaya Basin
Our Mission is to conserve, restore, enhance the natural habitat and give all people the opportunity to enjoy the Atchafalaya experience.
The Atchafalaya Basin is, simply put, an asset to the southeastern US - an ecosystem so rich in resources and various living organisms that it has come to represent and symbolize the life of Louisiana. In the state of Louisiana, the Basin is regarded not only as a place to grow up and play in, but for many, the Basin is livelihood, home, and the basis for a significant part of Louisiana's culture and history. On the National level, the Basin is a crucial drainage conduit providing flood relief for rivers that drain 2/3 of the continental US, as well as being the largest repository of freshwater forests in the nation. The State of Louisiana acknowledges the impact of the Atchafalaya Basin and has adopted the goal of heightening the Regional and National awareness of the Basin to the level of the Everglades in Florida and the Okefenokee in Georgia.
The Federally authorized Atchafalaya Basin Floodway System, Louisiana Project, encompasses 595,000 acres in an area bounded by the Missouri-Pacific Railroad tracks just south of US Highway 190, on the south by Morgan City, and on the east and west by the floodway protection levees.
Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR), in 1996, was named lead state agency in the development of a plan to protect and develop the Atchafalaya Basin as directed by Congress, in conjunction with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The Louisiana Legislature created the Atchafalaya Basin Program and its advisory Research and Promotion Board in 1998. The State Master Plan for the Atchafalaya Basin was completed that same year and approved unanimously by the legislature in 1999. Act 3 and Act 920 of the 1999 Louisiana Legislature empowered the Atchafalaya Basin Program to act on behalf of the State to implement and manage comprehensive state master plan for the Atchafalaya Basin.
The Old River Control Structures and Navigation Locks near Simmesport provide access to and from the Mississippi and Red Rivers into the Basin. The structures are designed to pass up to one-half of the flow of the rivers in the event of a major flood, The floodway, as defined and managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers, forms the physical core of the area addressed by the Atchafalaya Basin Program.
Avoyelles Parish is the source of America's most storied swampland, created by thousands of years of silt deposited by ancient paths of the Mississippi River. There are hundreds of miles of swamps, bayous and oxbow lakes which were carved out
by these old paths and gave birth to the numerous State and Federal wildlife refuges in the Parish. Avoyelles is home to the descendents of many of the original French Creole families that first settled Louisiana as well as several Native American tribes who were attracted by the flood-safe prairie. The Parish hosts a myriad of crawfish, alligators, snapping turtles, exotic birds and wildlife. Avoyelles is divided into 11 wards and has been governed by a police jury since it was created by legislative act in 1808. Today it has nine incorporated towns and an Indian Reservation.