The Bayou Chene Community

Oct. 16, 2023
Basin Landing Airboat and Swamp Tour | The Bayou Chene Community

The historical community of Bayou Chene was a vibrant settlement established in the 1830s and was located where the Atchafalaya Basin lies today. There was a lot more dry land in the area when the logjam on the Atchafalaya River kept the annual water cycle to a minimum. The roots of this community deepened when the U.S. post office was founded there in 1858. Bayou Chene's hard-working settlers managed a church, a school, a merchandise store, and the crucial post office, all nestled along the picturesque bayou.

Despite occasional flooding challenges, Bayou Chene flourished until the devastating Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 swept through, causing widespread destruction. The resilient community, however, managed to rebuild. Yet, its fate took a downturn when the construction of the Atchafalaya Spillway levees and river channel dredging triggered recurrent floods. In 1945, the community relocated the school to higher ground, but by 1953, the post office closed and many homes, churches, shops, and businesses were destroyed, prompting the departure of many residents.

From 1973 onwards, the local governments of St. Mary, Terrebonne, Lafourche, Assumption, and Iberville Parishes faced a recurring challenge—protecting Bayou Chene from Atchafalaya River backwater flooding and powerful storm surges. Their solution was to sink a massive river barge across the channel to shield thousands of residents from the threat of flooding, but today, Bayou Chene lies beneath 12 feet of silt in the Atchafalaya Basin.

In 2019, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and local leaders proposed a better solution to the continual flooding. In May 2020, construction commenced on a permanent flood control structure across Bayou Chene. The efforts of the CPRA and the St. Mary Levee District culminated in the completion of the Bayou Chene Floodgate in 2022. This remarkable floodgate structure can be swiftly closed within a few hours, offering enhanced and reliable protection to thousands of current residents in the surrounding area, but the community of Bayou Chene is long gone.

All these years after the final dissolution of the community, the bond between the families that lived there still exists. Descendants of Bayou Chene residents try to preserve and share the history, culture, and importance of this Atchafalaya Basin community.


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