Bayou Lacombe is the Gateway to the 15,000 acre Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge, an ecological treasure of subtropical rain forests and wetlands that extends like an emerald necklace along the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, a complex of swamps, marshes, lagoons, bays and bayous, pine savanna forest, and live oak ridges, with varied avian, mammalian, and marine wildlife, some of which had been on the endangered species list, but are now making a come back: Brown Pelican, Manatee, Gulf Sturgeon, Egret, Bald Eagle, Alligator, Heron
For years the marsh along Lake Rd. had been used as a dumping ground for all sorts of illegal trash, including construction debris, broken appliances, discarded furniture, hot water heaters, toilets, old tires and cars; even an abandoned school bus, office equipment, plus all manner of household garbage, and a constant supply of marine trash and recreational litter, etc. Despite the nay sawyers who maintained that no one could clean it up and change the habits of the dumpers, the two environmental divisions of the Lacombe Heritage Center did it.
Organized in 1983, STEP, St. Tammany Environmental Patrol became the educational and recruitment arm of the LHC, which involved Junior and Senior High school students in our Junior Ranger Corps, and LEAP, Lacombe Environmental Action Project became the implementation tool. In 1999, using a litter abatement grant from the La. Department of Environmental Quality, the LHC initiated Project Adopt-A-Spot: Learn, Work, Play.
Through these two divisions, cooperating with Jerry and Clara Crawford of Big Branch and Cliff and Connie Glockner of Lacombe in the grassroots movement to SAVE OUR LAKE became watchdog citizens, attending parish and state meetings, lobbying the legislative committees, politicians and the governor, and taking legal action to restrict the shell dredgers, their high paid lobbyists and lawyers, from further destroying the ecology of Lake Pontchartrain. Eventually, when we were able to get elected officials on the state and federal levels interested, money and paid personnel were used to establish the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation.
Later, this same grassroots group of crabbers, commercial and recreational fisherman, naturalists, academics, students, environmentalists, activists; all ordinary citizens, saved Cane Bayou and the Big Branch Marsh from being dredged and filled for commercial and residential development. They also prevented wetlands from being filled to develop a golf course in Fontainebleau State Park.
For thousands of years the Earth was in the grips of the last Ice Age. Ice sheets covered the northern hemisphere as much as two miles thick as far south as present day Chicago and scoured out the Great Lakes from the bedrock. With much of the world’s waters locked up in ice, the ocean levels were several hundred feet lower than present, exposing “land bridges” through out much of the world, including the Beringia connection between Asia and North America. Firece Arctic winds swept across the dry plains of the West carrying with it the fine particulate known as loess and deposited it in ripples like sand on a beach across much of the South.
About 15,000 years ago the present period of global warming started to melt the ice. Melt water rushed down the center of the continent creating the Mississippi River Basin with its major tributaries: the Missouri and Ohio and its distributaries the Mississippi, the Atchafalaya, and the Pearl Rivers. Trillions and trillions of tons of earth, rock and sediment were carried along with the rushing water and deposited into the ocean (Gulf of Mexico) and created the bayous and wetlands of south Louisiana.
Rivers and bayous on the north shore are usually deeper than the lakes due to eutrification and sedimentation.