We took the back roads through Southern Arkansas and Northern Louisiana. The really back roads. A hundred or two miles through the Ozarks and Ouachitas, up hills and down hollers. Twenty-five mile per hour curves for dozens of miles. We went from unnumbered paved roads, to unnumbered gravel roads, to unnumbered roads where the pavement was so rough that we wished we were back on washboard gravel.
What we saw was a strange blend of many poorly maintained shacks, a very few large well kept ranches – and at five mile intervals, Baptist churches. It reminded me of parts of northern Wisconsin, except that there are no ranches up there and instead of a small Baptist church every fives miles you’ll see a small not-so-Baptist tavern.
The hills are forested and logged, much like the northwoods. Like the north, some areas are mostly pine, others are hardwoods. We met logging trucks every dozen miles or so and drove by a paper mill and a couple of sawmills. We didn’t see much else that could sustain an economy.
We eventually ended up in the deep south of Louisiana at Palmetto Island State Park. The landscape in the south of Louisiana is completely different from the north. Down here it’s flat as a pancake and swampy.
These are real swamps – the kind with carnivorous man-eating reptiles. They make the swamps up north seems pretty wimpy.
The southern coast is dotted with wildlife refuges, havens for birds, alligators and fishermen. We spent a day at the Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge, observing many new-to-us bird species (and a hundred or so fishermen).
A beautiful area, currently marred only by the extensive damage from the recent hurricanes. Many houses were still tarped. Some were a pile of debris. Even houses that are far inland are still built up on high pilings, some up about 16 feet off the ground. The storm surge must be pretty severe in land this flat.
This is a crawfish and rice farming area. The landscape is dotted with large shallow ponds where crawfish are harvested inbetween rice harvests. An interesting crop rotation.
The birds loved the crawfish/rice fields also. We saw many fields with dozens of egrets and ibis and one with a thousand or so ducks. While we were watching that field, the farmer drove up, pulled out his handgun, and and fired a few shots in the air – presumably to scare off the ducks, not the tourists.
We heard a rumor that the snow up in Minnesota is melting again. Time to head north.