Photos: Wax Lake Delta

Take a boat ride down the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, hang a right at Mallard Pass and you’re heading into the one area of south Louisiana that has seen consistent coastal marsh growth in the last several decades.

The landscape of waterway-lined willow trees gradually gives way to fields of American water lilies and then to marsh grass and finally to large expanses of mud flats the farther south you travel into the Wax Lake Delta.

It’s a healthy delta created by accident when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in an effort to provide flood protection for Morgan City, dredged a straight line channel from the Atchafalaya River southward as a secondary way to discharge river flow to the Gulf of Mexico.

Then in the 1970s, flooding on the Atchafalaya River via the Mississippi River brought loads of sediment down the channel, bringing to the surface the mudflats that had been building under water for decades.

The sediment that rebuilt the delta took a long trip: starting at the Mississippi River, diverted down the Atchafalaya River and through the basin, carried down to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and then farther south into the growing delta.