HOW HIGH THE WATER

My mission this particular afternoon was to photograph high water. Because our cover story for this issue is about Visual New Orleans, I thought I could contribute a photograph of what near-flood stage looked like as seen from one of the area’s most visual spots, “The Fly” on the Audubon Park batture.

There was much festivity in the area. Near a clump of trees two neo-hippie guys were actually splashing in the river, another of the tribe was playing the flute and two others were performing acrobatics. A group of college kids sat at the embankment. Couples lounged on blankets. One family was cooking from a small barbecue pit. Three men baited their fishing rods; so far that afternoon they had caught two catfish.

A towboat made the turn on the river, which on this day was as wide as I had ever seen it. The only problem was in fulfilling my mission. I realized that photographing high water was difficult without something to compare it to.

Showing the river at this stage meant little without being able to show what it looked like at other times when the shrubs along the bank aren’t submerged and when someone would have to negotiate rocks to get to the water. As picturesque as the towboat was, it looked the same as on any other day.

No photo angle worked, until I noticed three girls who sat along the embankment dangling their feet in the water.

That was something that can never happen! Usually the water is maybe 20 feet away from the high ground, but on this day the distance between an ankle and a knee was how close the water had come to land.

Because the upper Bonnet Carre spillway had been opened there was no panic that the Fly would flood, so the onlookers experienced the best of both worlds: the spectacle of high water without the fear. And, if the catfish were biting and if the water was cooling body appendages so much the better. At this moment the Mississippi River was both mighty and peaceful.

 

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