Friday, December 15, 2023

Where the Mississippi River Ends

 Location: Bayou Segnette State Park; Westwego, Louisiana

I left Cajun Country and headed towards the big city of New Orleans. To get here though I had to travel over the worst U.S. Highway I've ever been on before. Once I get out of here, I will never be back because I know the roadway won't be repaired or replaced in my lifetime. Just shamefully bad.

This state park is great and in the perfect spot to explore this area. I camped here the last time I was here back in February of 2016. I made 3 posts back then and you can find them by looking up Feb 2016 on the archives to the right >>>>>.

This is the typical campsite here at Bayou Segnette. The campground is only about 10% full which I guess is pretty good for this time of year. 

This state park is on the west side of the Mississippi River while New Orleans is on the east side. I do not plan to cross the river and will be staying out of the Big Easy. So far, the trees around me have muffled the gunshots from New Orleans (it's up to you to decide if I'm kidding or not. For there to even be a question in your mind that I may not be kidding says it all)

My only reason for coming here was to get as close as possible to the mouth of the Mississippi River. I explored the beginning of the river at Lake Itasca in Minnesota back in September of 2014 (another archive search date?). So, as with so many of life's circles, I needed to complete this one. The circle being, see the beginning, see the end.

This picture is from September of 2014 and shows the beginning of the Mississippi River in the state of Minnesota. That is Lake Itasca in the background. The elevation at his spot is 1,475 feet which is the total fall of the river since the Gulf of Mexico is elevation zero. The length of the river is a little over 2,500 miles but if you drive there it is only 1,500 miles. That means the river meanders 1,000 extra. If you put a drop of water in the river at Lake Itasca, it will take 90 days before it reaches the Gulf of Mexico. 

Many people think New Orleans is sitting right on the Gulf of Mexico, but it isn't. The Gulf is about 70 miles south of New Orleans. There is a narrow strip of land that parallels the Mississippi River from New Orleans to the Gulf of Mexico. That narrow strip is what I came here to see. It is hard to find places to actually see the river because there are levees on both sides to prevent flooding.

This state park is in the city of Westwego (pronounced wes-twee-gow). According to stories, the city got its name from train conductors back in the late 1800's. As they pulled out of the local train station headed west, they would yell,,,,, West We Go. Like most things, it got slurred down into today's pronunciation.

To begin the exploration, I headed to Belle Chase which is a town between the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) and the Mississippi River. It is essentially the beginning of the strip of land I wanted to see. When I got to the ICW, I was reminded that Louisiana has roadway tunnels and one of them was on my route. The tunnel won't be there for long since the state is building a bridge over the ICW and plan to close the tunnel early next year. There was only one lane of traffic through the tunnel and having to turn on your windshield wipers while in a tunnel is a little "disconcerting". Yep, a lot of water was leaking from the roof of the tunnel. I've never seen that before and hope I never see it again. Geez,,,,, But, I got through OK and knew on my return route I would be going over the newly built portion of the bridge.

I hope I never pass through a tunnel like this again. I understand the reason they aren't maintaining it is because the it will be permanently closed soon. This is when bad things can happen. This is also the reason for the extremely bad roadway on the way to the New Orleans area. It is eventually going to be replaced with Intestate 49. The logic is, why waste maintenance money when the entire roadway will be replaced soon. That's fine as long as soon is soon, but in this case soon has already been about 10 years with probably another 10 years to go. The 3 P's strikes again, "Piss Poor Planning".

After leaving the tunnel and checking my drawers, I headed south with about 65 miles of road in front of me. I think I'll let the pictures and captions tell this part of the exploration.

There is a lot of existing industry along the river road. I lost count of the number of tanks at 25. There is a small to medium refinery between the tanks and the river. 

This was a massive industrial construction project. There must have been 500 personal vehicles in the parking lot along with a dozen or more buses. The work force must be close to 1,000 people. When I got back to the campground I did some checking, and apparently, this will be a "Liquefied Natural Gas Plant" with the ability to load ships directly on the river.

I couldn't get a better picture but this is the Empire Locks that connect the Mississippi River directly to the Gulf of Mexico without having to go all the way to the end of the river. Obviously small boats only.

Once you get about 3/4 of the way, a lot of the industry stops and you have some empty land. Notice the four lane highway that is used to entice business to build here.
This is a residential street between the highway and river. To the left is the Levee. Usually they don't like trees growing that close to the levee because the roots may undermine the levee. 

There are access points where you can drive up to the top of the levee but the river may still not be seen due to trees. You can drive along the top of the levee but you better know where you're going and hope to be able to get off the levee or not meet someone coming in the opposite direction. You may have a lot of backing up if things go wrong. It is best to not drive on top.

I found a spot where I could see the river. This is looking directly across. Towards the end, the river is about 3,000 feet wide and the strip of land is 2,000 feet.

Same viewpoint as the previous picture except this is looking upstream. That little spot on the horizon just to the right of the pile is an ocean going ship.

Same viewpoint, just looking downstream.

This is one of the larger fishing marinas in the area. Those mostly shrimping boats with some crabbing boats. 

Some crab pots that were strangely off by themselves. 

I timed this just right. The concrete structure to the right is a Gun Emplacement at Fort Jackson. You can easily see how a ship would be vulnerable to the shore cannons.

Just turning 90 degrees from the previous picture and you're looking at Fort Jackson. It is 40 miles from the mouth of the river and was built around 1830. It and a sister fort on the opposite side of the river were to safeguard the City of New Orleans from enemies coming up the river. It was built after the war of 1812 and the Battle of New Orleans (actually at Chalmette). Little did they know it would be used by the South to defend New Orleans during the Civil War. In 1862, about a year after the Civil War began, Admiral Farragut of the Union Navy sailed up the Mississippi River intent on capturing New Orleans. Fort Jackson stopped them for a while, but after 12 days of Farragut shelling the fort, a mutiny happened within the Fort and Farragut captured the fort and ultimately New Orleans. 

This is from inside the fort. You can walk around but not inside any locked doors. The places with the arches are cannon emplacement locations. I was the only one there. As soon as I entered the interior of the fort I got the heebie-jeebies. Something definitely wasn't right. Bad ju-ju for sure. I fought the feeling for a while but quickly left after only exploring about 10% of the place. I won't be back.

This is the end of the road. Actually, the road ends about 1/4 mile past that concrete truck in the picture. But this was close enough. I had seen Venice, Italy while in the Navy and now seen Venice, Louisiana at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Wow, two life circles at the same time.

 Tomorrow is moving day and I'll be headed back west. I have reservations at a Casino Campground near the boundary of the Atchafalaya Swamp which is the largest swamp in the country. By the way, it is pronounced "a-chaf-a-lie-a" with all of the a's being short a's.

Ya'll take care of each other. Maybe I'll Cya down the road.  


  1. New to me things today and a wonderful job of showing the area. Thank you.

  2. When I was in elementary school, and I will stipulate that was a loooong time ago, my dad was stationed at Brookley Air Force Base in Mobile Alabama, and we went through the Bankhead tunnel in downtown Mobile pretty regular. And I remember water leaking from the top of the Bankhead tunnel to the point that, just like you, my dad would have to turn on the windshield wipers. Fortunately for me I was too young to realize how scary that should have been.


    1. Yeah,,, a "I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then" moment.

  3. Nice post! Being a retired highway engineer I can relate to all your descriptions of the inadequate maintenance.

  4. It's so frustrating knowing it could be fixed easily if it was done at the right time but if you wait too late, then it's a major expense.