Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Louisiana Road Trip

I've just returned from a 12 day trip to Mississippi and Louisiana. My main reason for going was Gulf Wars, an SCA event. However, after the event, I spent a couple days travelling the back highways of Mississippi and Louisiana in search of more bridges and other roadside attractions to photograph.

One of the high points of my trip was an opportunity to trace part of the original alignment of US 71 in Louisiana. US 71 currently ends at US 190 near Krotz Springs, but it originally extended all the way to Baton Rouge. The original Mississippi River crossing between Port Allen and Baton Rouge no longer exists... the ferry was replaced in 1968 by the Interstate 10 bridge.

I picked up the trail again on US 190 near Livonia (I skipped the Livonia-Port Allen alignment since I had started late) and headed north and west on LA 77. A few miles past Fordouche, I turned west on LA 10... or what I *thought* was LA 10. There was a guide sign pointing to this non-descript dirt road that had no other signage on it, save for a stop sign for approaching traffic. My curiousity getting the better of me, I decided to follow it anyway. About 2 miles down the road, I came to a 3-way intersection, again unmarked. The segment to the west had a sign pointing the way to the Melville Ferry so I figured this was the way to go. Another couple miles, I came to LA 417. 417 went north on a paved road (though it dead-ends a few miles away) while a sign indicated 10 turned south (again becoming a dirt road). A mile down the road, I came to the Melville Ferry at the Atchafalaya River, but the ferry was closed. It only operates in the early morning and late afternoon.

It wasn't a total waste of time, though, as I found a long truss bridge over the river along the Missouri-Pacific Railroad. I turned around and returned to US 190 crossing the Atchafalaya River on it (and finding a pair of truss bridges as well). At Krotz Springs, I turned north on LA 105 towards Melville and eventually came to LA 10 (paved!). I headed east on 10 approximately a mile until I reached the other end of the ferry crossing... sure enough, the crew was still "out to lunch". Turning around, I headed west on LA 10 towards Lebeau where the road intersects the modern-day alignment of US 71 approximately 16 miles north of Krotz Springs.

Turning north on US 71, I pointed myself towards Alexandria. I missed a couple short possible old alignments that I didn't catch until it was too late. One was LA 1177 near Bunkie and another was LA 456 between Meeker and Lecompte. I had spent so much time researching the Lebeau-Baton Rouge alignment I missed a couple other relatively short sections, so I'll just have to go back again someday ;)

I saw no indications along either section of LA 10 or along LA 77 that either of these roads may have originally been part of US 71... all I have to go by is the old maps with which I spent hours painstakingly trying to locate the old highway. Still, it was an interesting drive, though not something I'd want to do everyday, but it was definitely worth checking out.

1 comment:

strange said...

Did a little road geeking of our own through historic Vicksburg Monday... the folks at the CVB confirm the roadbed of the old US 80 bridge across the Mississippi (the highway/rail bridge) is still maintained -- in case anything every happens to I-20. Further, if faced with another Katrina-force hurricane moving up-river, that same bridge may be opened for one-way traffic for evacuees.

Off the beaten track, we left the downtown area on Old 61 and were rerouted on a detour (downed power lines in street after truck vs. power pole ax). Of course, I kept going on the cobblestone street, rather than turn where the detour said to go back to the main road. And two blocks off Old 61, we found a trestle. Couldn't go under it -- with the car-top on, there was just no way. But as we're pulling up the hill, we looked in the rear-view and saw an entire steel span on the other side of the trestle -- apparently going nowhere. Don't know more about it (Paul was already griping we'd be making it back in around 6pm that night, and he had to work) but plan to check it out on our next trip through.