I woke up this morning and had plans to visit the Rockefeller Wildlife Nature Reserve in Louisiana. I took a ferry ride across the waterway at Cameron and drove past some of the most dramatic destruction by nature I’ve ever seen. I saw mile after mile of destroyed buildings and denuded trees. Grand old oak trees several hundred years old were battle-worn from wind and damage by the sea. The bases of some of these ancient trees were so gnarled, it was clear these trees had survived a lot worse for a long, long time than their recent battle with nature.
I passed buildings built from steel. Yet the steel beams, both large and small, in their twisted aftermath shapes showed me they were no match for the force that nature unleashed. The smart people built their homes on raised platforms 10 to 12 ft above ground, but even structures on stilts suffered roof damage to the point of destruction. Anything that was built at ground level, even on a raised foundation, got ravaged by wind and sea. Fields several miles inland remain to this day, littered with rubble and pieces of devastated buildings. I drove inland about 20 miles from the coast and saw no signs of damaged buildings, though stands of trees with broken trunks and limbs told me there had been some trauma even out here.
When I got to the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, it was a bust. I found demolished buildings and no open roads for exploring the reserve. I visited another reserve about 30 miles away, but found Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge behind locked gates. The only vehicles at the gate were construction vehicles, so I believe they were doing road repairs. It was a shame, because I could see thousands of snow geese rising and making murmurating turns in the fields in front of me and then settling back down on the wetlands.
Research tells me this damage came on August 25, 2020 from Hurricane Laura, though a record number (5) named storms made landfall during the year. It was a Category 4 storm with 150 mph winds and a 20 foot storm surge. It was the strongest storm to hit Louisiana since 1856. Seventy-seven people perished. The road I traveled could not have been more than a few feet above flat delta prairie that extended out to the gulf. Nearby Cameron (Louisiana) was the bull’s eye for the storm’s landfall. If this calamity wasn’t enough, six weeks later a second hurricane named Delta hit this area, adding insult to injury.
Well, I’d have to say that my exploration of Louisiana and its wildlife refuges have been a bust. I took some time to review my maps to see the road ahead for my trip to Florida. I could see 12 or more hours of driving through “civilized lands” before I reached anything resembling wild areas in Florida. The way I drive it might take me three days out, and three days back. I decided my trip to Florida would have to wait. I want to be in south Texas when spring migration kicks in. If I pushed on to Florida, I might miss some of it. I turned back towards Texas, and my decision to return to Texas got reinforced when I saw kettling White Pelicans climbing high on thermals, most likely preparing to migrate away from the Gulf Coast, and go north for their breeding season.