The Rivers, Bayous and Lakes Of Louisiana
From the state's earliest history the rivers and bayous of Louisiana have played a major role in its economic and political development.
In this giant floodplain once dwelt the mysterious mound builders. Here, too, passed the ill-starred Hernado de Soto and Rene' Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, the young Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, and the enigmatic Felipe Enrique Neri, Baron de Bastrop, possessed by dreams of empire, followed by a steady trickle of Anglo-Saxon homeseekers refugeeing from the worn lands of Georgia and the Carolinas.
During the Civil War, the woods echoed with the sound of marching armies, jayhawkers, guerrillas, traitors, and patriots. Reconstruction brought with it carpetbaggers, scalawags, defeated but still-defiant Southerners, and a number of famous out-laws. Jesse James and the Younger brothers trod the same ground and crossed the same rivers as had James Bowie, Louis Antoine Juchereau de Saint-Denis, and other heroes of an earlier day. Many left a name to perpetuate an experience.
To the Indian and the French the rivers offered locations for villages and were highways for travelers and trappers; to the Spanish they were hazards to be crossed; to the Americans and the British they served as international boundaries; and to the poets and writers they were haunting "bridges of flowers."
Hernando de Soto and his band of followers were the first white men known to gaze upon the Mississippi River. Later came other explorers, and in 1718 Bienville and a small group of men founded New Orleans near the mouth of the "Big River." Today the land along the Mississippi from Baton Rouge, to New Orleans is being transformed into another Ruhr Valley.