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Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Bayou City

Houston is known as "the Bayou City", mostly because it sounds way better than "the Drainage Ditch City"! Having grown up in South Louisiana, Miss Ginger probably knew what a bayou was long before she could define the words "stream" or "creek". Today's Houston Chronicle had cute article called "Bayous for Dummies" that Miss Ginger thought was clever and well written, if not a tiny bit misguided. The part that she thought was questionable is that the writer almost seems judgmental that the Cajuns created the word "bayou" instead of simply using the French word "rive" to describe these bodies of water. There are, however, some distinct differences among bayous, creeks, streams, and rivers, and Miss Ginger is about to set you all straight, so to speak!

1. Bayous are different from rivers in their volume and rate of flow. Rivers tend to be much deeper, and flow at pretty much the same rate all the time. Bayous, Mother Nature's drainage ditches, flow rapidly for brief periods after rainstorms, but return to their lazy, barely moving state as rapidly as possible.
2. Bayous are different from creeks and streams in that they never dry out. We have creeks and streams here, as well, mostly in North Louisiana and West Texas, where the terrain becomes less flat, if not actually hilly. Because of their tilted positioning, water flows through creeks and streams from one place to another, until place one is empty, at which point we have a dry creek bed or stream bed. In the flat wetlands of Louisiana and South Texas, bayous don't dry out.
3. As noted in the Chronicle article, bayous sometimes reverse their flow. Miss Ginger does not know of any rivers that do this. Correct her if she is wrong.
4. Bayous are amazing natural habitats. Because they never dry out, and typically flow slowly, they are safe, stable environments for all sorts of wildlife and flora. The bayous of South Louisiana have fed the Cajun people for centuries!

During the oil boom 60's and 70's, Houston's oil-baron civic leaders faced problems with flooding as they grew and paved the city, creating more runoff than Mother Nature could handle. In an attempt to improve the flow, these "brilliant industrialists" scraped away the trees and grasses, dug away the curves and turns, and paved miles of these bayous into big concrete drainage ditches. Luckily, in the 80's and 90's, as the oil bidness suffered and high tech required more educated workers, civil engineers began using the concept of holding ponds and and reservoirs to retain excess rainfall, and contain it for evaporation, rather then trying to move it all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Miss Ginger hopes that someday, environmental groups will take on the project of restoring some of the bayous that have been destroyed, and replacing them with more natural, environmentally sound ways to handle rainwater. A gurl can dream, can't she?!


David Dust said...

Miss Ginger is always so informative!

When I was a kid, we would visit my grandparents in West Texas, and I could never understand how they could call a dry creek bed a "creek". In PA, we had a cabin on a typical "creek" which we were able to fish, boat and swim in. The "creeks" in West Texas??? ... Not so much.

Also, the EAST RIVER - which separates Manhattan/The Bronx from Queens/Brooklyn - reverses direction with the comings and goings of the tides. However, this is because it's not really a river at all, it's technically a tidal strait (so to speak).


Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Why we think we can do better than Mother Nature floors me.

mrs. miss alaineus said...

fascinating. i did not know a bayou could reverse directions!


finally a word verfication i can get behind!

i've been moreactiv since my foot got better!

CJ/Rick said...

I believe the Mississippi River ran backwards at one time due to an earth quake in the 1800's???? At the time it formed some lake up north. But the facts escape me.
All I know is that bayous overflow and flood my condo so I moved to Sugar Land.

Lisa said...

I agree with Bucko (aka Ken). When will we realize that Mother Nature has everything well in hand and taht we should leave well enough alone!

And thank you for the education. Dad always said that we should learn something new each and every day.


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