| Let's see, how did I get started on this one? A search for a road in St. Landry Parish, Rideau Rd., had taken me to Carencro High School's website where there were pages of information on St. Landry Parish, including what I was looking for. While clicking through the pages I saw "Bayou Rouge" mentioned several times. Once, referring to Big Cane as the location on the bayou where a river boat had sunk, and, again, as being the bayou which had taken the steamboats to Cottonport. That did it. Visions of steamboats plowing the bayous through the wilderness grasped my imagination.
Mapquest (tm), the map/route, on-line software, is wonderful. Whoever put that thing together did one fine job. It recognizes names which are so buried in history, the locals don't know them anymore. It knew the unincorported areas I was looking for. I would see these old names and couldn't figure out where they were, and presto, Mapquest found them. Amazing.
Back to Bayou Rouge, I have seen, crossed it, for years. I just didn't know what I was looking at. Years ago, I mean years ago, I had taken a ride with some of my customers to the Cottonport area. There I saw the remnants of what appeared to have been a large river/bayou running through the center of town. Cottonport was a pretty little town and obviously had a history, given its name, something that interested me. I had wondered what that bayou was named, but, not enough to pursue it, until the answer came to me. My kind of pursuit.
This ride is one of deja vu, but this time, I was armed with a lot more information and purpose.
Of course, as these things go, what I found has started new searches. You can't win, but you can have fun trying.
| I rode all over the place tracing the on-again and off- again bayou, trying to follow it where possible, and cross it where I could. This treasure hunt was not done in order of the bayou's flow or anit-flow. For the sake of continuity, I will start the ride as if we were on one of those great old steamboats, turning off the Atchafalaya at the small settlement of Bayou Rouge to begin its run up the bayou to Cottonport.
To get to the once mouth of Bayou Rouge, head north from Melville, La. 105. Be looking for the bayou on your left (west) and Goudeau Rd. You can ride back a ways and see the effects of the water having little flow. In places the bayou is covered with water lillies. If it is sunny, and the time is right, the flowers will be opened. The bayou here looks very capable to carrying large vessels. Impressions will change. Head back to 105 and turn north until you see the old Atchafalaya Presbyterian Church. Turn left, west, on the road right before the church. Go until you reach La. 360 and turn left, southwest. Soon you will cross the Rouge again at its confluence with Bayou Tawpaw. I asked these young guys who were fishing on the bridge what the water was called. One didn't know, and one said it was all Rouge. No, Bayou Tawpaw intersects here. This was important to me and probably, only me.
Earlier on my ride, I was exploring the Rideau Cemetery and found a head stone buried in an ant bed that explained that the gentleman had died at Tawpaw Flat. The place had to be close. I felt it.
Back to the ride: From this little settlement on 360, I rode on toward Palmetto. The bayou proceeded across the wilderness toward the next chance to see it north of Palmetto. 360, the road we're on, takes us to La. 10 where you turn west, right. Soon after entering Palmetto, take a right, north, on St.Joseph Street. It is paved until after the bridge that crosses the Bayou Des Glaises Diversion Canal. Go up the levee and turn north for a short while. The gravel is light and will give you no problem, Bruce. Then proceed down the levee on the other side and follow it until you see the water. The gravel road crosses a pipe which connects these two pieces of the once proud bayou. Rouge is soon blocked by the levee we just crossed.I have seen huge birds (herons) fishing here. This is officially the Atchafalaya swamp, although drainage has provided dry land for the farming you can see just a bit further down the road. We will turn around and head back to Palmetto for a look at something I found extremely interesting. At Palmetto there is a chance to see some history. I found this instance of "lost Louisiana" completely by accident. Just before exiting Palmetto, look for Rideau Road on your left, east (not shown on my route map. I didn't go that way). Take it until you see Rideau Church Road. Take it to the right, north. Soon you will see the old church on the left and then the graveyard a little ways past the church. It is very small. There is the only one clearly marked grave there, the founder of the community, Zenon Rideau. His story is one of extreme accomplishment. The bayou you are riding along is Bayou Petite Prarie. The folks around here did not arrive yesterday. This is an old established agrarian society. The area is known as The Rideau Settlement. From there I followed the bayou road on into Lebeau, but if you are not up to gravel, return to Palmetto, turn left, west and head into Lebeau. At Lebeau there is gas and food. It is on what was once Louisiana's main north south highway before the interstate, La 71. Take 71 north out of town until you soon see La. 361 to the right, the sign says Big Cane 7. Take it to Big Cane for a disappointment. Here is where a riverboat sank. Hard to believe, the bayou is not much more than a ditch. Don't dispair. It goes throught these changes. By the time we get to Evergreen, it is more recognizable as a means of transportation. I tried to follow the bayou up a gravel road but soon met a locked gate and headed back to 361 and went north with Rouge to the west. At Goudeau, I found stuff to shoot. Oh, have you noticed 361 is a great motorcycle road. I didn't say this at first, I saved it for those who would read this far, that's your prize. After turning off 71, you would have known this. At Evergreen the bayou is on its last leg to Cottonport. Ride into Cottonport. On this stretch you can imagine the steamboats. The water might be low, but the depression it which the bayou ran is evident. Cottonport has made the bayou its centerpiece as it was. Get off the main streets and check out Cottonport. There are treasures here.
|Church, Bayou Current|
|La.361 to Big Cane, Goudeau, Evergreen|
|Bayou Rouge, taken at its mouth across the levee from the Atchafalaya north of Melville.|
|Rideau Settlement pictures at bottom of page.|
|The Old Church on the way to Bayou Current|
|Local kids in distance fishing off the bridge where 360 crosses Bayou Rouge. This is Bayou Tawpaw/Rouge.|
|B. Rouge at Big Cane crossing, La. 361.|
|This is the gravel road I tried to follow but was blocked by a gate. There should be a law against that sort of thing. Just kidding, Fred.|
|Old store at Goudeau. It had a very old Pepsi sign on it.|
|Private residence at Goudeau. Looked old to me.|
|Cabin at Goudeau. It was old.|
|Cotton looks good this year, La 360 above Goudeau. Sugarcane and cotton intermingle around these parts.|
|Foot Bridge at Evergreen. A young Cypress tree is seen in the center of the picture. Carry on son.|
|Victorian at Evergreen. Deserted.|
|I didn't ride into Cottonport, thinking I had some pictures to show you, and I do, somewhere, probably on a cd. I rode back down 1178, which follows the bayou for a while and then Bayou Rouge Road, a narrow lane, takes over from there. ll78 is a twisty road also, probably better than 361 but the surface is one that only a DL650 would love. It goes though an area where I've seen huge birds flying in a Palmetto swamp. Below are the pictures from the Rideau Settlement.|
|Bayou Rouge south of Evergreen off of ll78|
|Bayou Petite Praire is dry in late September, as were many of the bayous. This only made them more interesting. Cypress trees are the predominent species.|
|I am so proud when I actually find something I have researched. A rare occasion which makes me doubt the information I get on the web. You know all this stuff is fiction, just kidding, Fred.|
|I had read on the link below, that a church had burned down in Lebeau and had been rebuilt several times and finally was rebuilt with cement blocks, good idea. I thought this was it. But it might not be. It is the Rideau Church on Rideau Church Road. A street sign led me there, I sure am a good detective. Then I found the founder of "the whole thing", borrowed words from a Rideau Settlement resident. Zenon Rideau led quite a life and his offspring and relatives should be proud of him. He was a Louisiana Pioneer. Again the sites to read all about this area and Zenon are Here and Here and Here, the Zenon Rideau info, top of page.|
|Rideau Information at bottom of page.|
|1178 leaves Evergren going north. I didn't realize this because I was riding the old bike without the gps. Then it u-turns, almost, and heads for straight US 71, the road back to Lebeau, where I would turn for home. 1178 is a great road. Horrible surface, but that is not what counts in exploration. You know when you are exploring good when it gets a little rough for other people. I realized that the beautiful swamp I had pictured before on 1178 was the Rouge.The swamp pictures taken in 2002 were taken at the top of the route, north of Evergreen. Those pictures are below the Rideau pics.|
|The Palmetto Plant, they are everywhere. They are evergreens. They have roots to China. In winter they add needed green to the world and really stand out. In this article two of the towns mentioned are Evergreen and Palmetto. See how things fit?|
|The Rouge, and I didn't even know it when this picture was taken back in '02. Can you imagine this ditch was once a waterway for steamboats. To the right is La.1178 which goes norh from Evergreen and then swings south with the Rouge. Welded "Posted Sign" below is evidence of the "do it yourself" ability of our people. Notice these older pictures were taken in January. Fine riding in Januaray. Come on down.|