Wax Lake

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Looking down the Bayou Teche to its intersection with the Wax Lake outlet near Patterson, Louisiana. Bayou Teche and Atchafalaya River.jpg
Looking down the Bayou Teche to its intersection with the Wax Lake outlet near Patterson, Louisiana.

Wax Lake was a lake in St. Mary Parish, Louisiana that was converted into an outlet channel to divert water from the Atchafalaya River to the Gulf of Mexico.

St. Mary Parish, Louisiana Parish in the United States

St. Mary Parish is a parish located in the U.S. state of Louisiana. As of the 2010 census, the population was 54,650. The parish seat is Franklin. The parish was created in 1811.

Atchafalaya River river in the United States of America

The Atchafalaya River is a 137-mile-long (220 km) distributary of the Mississippi River and Red River in south central Louisiana in the United States. It flows south, just west of the Mississippi River, and is the fifth largest river in North America, by discharge. The name "Atchafalaya" comes from Choctaw for "long river", from hachcha, "river", and falaya, "long".

Gulf of Mexico An Atlantic Ocean basin extending into southern North America

The Gulf of Mexico is an ocean basin and a marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean, largely surrounded by the North American continent. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States, on the southwest and south by Mexico, and on the southeast by Cuba. The U.S. states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida border the Gulf on the north, which are often referred to as the "Third Coast", in comparison with the U.S. Atlantic and Pacific coasts.


Wax Lake outlet

The Wax Lake outlet is an artificial channel that was created by the United States Army Corps of Engineers in 1942 to divert 30 percent of the flow from the Atchafalaya River to the Gulf of Mexico and reduce flood stages at Morgan City, Louisiana. [1] The project design flood flow capacity for the outlet is 440,000 cu ft/s (12,000 m3/s). [2]

United States Army Corps of Engineers federal agency under the Department of Defense and a major Army command

The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is a U.S. federal agency under the Department of Defense and a major Army command made up of some 37,000 civilian and military personnel, making it one of the world's largest public engineering, design, and construction management agencies. Although generally associated with dams, canals and flood protection in the United States, USACE is involved in a wide range of public works throughout the world. The Corps of Engineers provides outdoor recreation opportunities to the public, and provides 24% of U.S. hydropower capacity.

Morgan City, Louisiana City in Louisiana, United States

Morgan City is a city in St. Mary Parish in the U.S. State of Louisiana. The population was 12,404 at the 2010 census.

Project design flood

The project design flood is a hypothetical "maximum probable" flood of the Mississippi River used by the United States Army Corps of Engineers to aid in the design and execution of flood protection in the Mississippi Valley.

Wax Lake Delta

Aerial view of the Wax Lake Delta in 2005 Wax Lake Delta.jpg
Aerial view of the Wax Lake Delta in 2005

The Wax Lake Delta is a river delta in Louisiana that was formed by rapid deposition of sediment following the creation of a canal through Wax Lake off of the Atchafalaya River in 1942. [3] It is roughly 20 miles (32 km) southwest of Morgan City [3] adjacent to the Atchafalaya delta.

River delta Silt deposition landform at the mouth of a river

A river delta is a landform created by deposition of sediment that is carried by a river as the flow leaves its mouth and enters slower-moving or stagnant water. This occurs where a river enters an ocean, sea, estuary, lake, reservoir, or another river that cannot carry away the supplied sediment. The size and shape of a delta is controlled by the balance between watershed processes that supply sediment, and receiving basin processes that redistribute, sequester, and export that sediment. The size, geometry, and location of the receiving basin also plays an important role in delta evolution. River deltas are important in human civilization, as they are major agricultural production centers and population centers. They can provide coastline defense and can impact drinking water supply. They are also ecologically important, with different species' assemblages depending on their landscape position.

Louisiana State of the United States of America

Louisiana is a state in the Deep South region of the South Central United States. It is the 31st most extensive and the 25th most populous of the 50 United States. Louisiana is bordered by the state of Texas to the west, Arkansas to the north, Mississippi to the east, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. A large part of its eastern boundary is demarcated by the Mississippi River. Louisiana is the only U.S. state with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are equivalent to counties. The state's capital is Baton Rouge, and its largest city is New Orleans.

Deposition (geology) Geological process in which sediments, soil and rocks are added to a landform or land mass

Deposition is the geological process in which sediments, soil and rocks are added to a landform or land mass. Wind, ice, water, and gravity transport previously weathered surface material, which, at the loss of enough kinetic energy in the fluid, is deposited, building up layers of sediment.

It receives 34 million tons of sediment per year. [4] In the 64 years between 1941 and 2005, Wax Lake was completely filled with sediment, and the delta prograded approximately 8 km into the sea. [4]

In sedimentary geology and geomorphology, the term progradation refers to the growth of a river delta farther out into the sea over time. This occurs when the mass balance of sediment into the delta is such that the volume of incoming sediment is greater than the volume of the delta that is lost through subsidence, sea-level rise, and/or erosion.

The Wax Lake Delta's distributary channels form via deposition of mouth bars. The first branch to the west is Campground Pass and further south there are the three main branches, East Pass, Greg Pass and Main Pass. [5] The mid-channel is eroded and deposited downstream at the mouth of the river (usually during a period of higher water flow), which will create a new path of flow around it. There is then an added deposition upstream, thus causing the river to bifurcate. This results in the familiar dendritic pattern.

Dendrite neuron projection that has a short, tapering, often branched, morphology, receives and integrates signals from other neurons or from sensory stimuli, and conducts a nerve impulse towards the axon or the cell body

Dendrites, also dendrons, are branched protoplasmic extensions of a nerve cell that propagate the electrochemical stimulation received from other neural cells to the cell body, or soma, of the neuron from which the dendrites project. Electrical stimulation is transmitted onto dendrites by upstream neurons via synapses which are located at various points throughout the dendritic tree. Dendrites play a critical role in integrating these synaptic inputs and in determining the extent to which action potentials are produced by the neuron. Dendritic arborization, also known as dendritic branching, is a multi-step biological process by which neurons form new dendritic trees and branches to create new synapses. The morphology of dendrites such as branch density and grouping patterns are highly correlated to the function of the neuron. Malformation of dendrites is also tightly correlated to impaired nervous system function. Some disorders that are associated with the malformation of dendrites are autism, depression, schizophrenia, Down syndrome and anxiety.

Because it was entirely created during an observable period and, other than the creation of the canal, was not altered by humans, it has often been in studies of deltaic formation. [3] In the time since Hurricane Katrina, it has also served and as a model for delta regrowth in the Mississippi River Delta region in order to restore habitat and protect against storm surge. [3] [4]

Hurricane Katrina Category 5 Atlantic hurricane in 2005

Hurricane Katrina was an extremely destructive and deadly Category 5 hurricane that made landfall on Florida and Louisiana in August 2005, causing catastrophic damage; particularly in the city of New Orleans and the surrounding areas. Subsequent flooding, caused largely as a result of fatal engineering flaws in the flood protection system known as levees around the city of New Orleans, precipitated most of the loss of lives. The storm was the third major hurricane of the record-breaking 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, as well as the fourth-most intense Atlantic hurricane on record to make landfall in the contiguous United States, behind only the 1935 Labor Day hurricane, Hurricane Camille in 1969, and Hurricane Michael in 2018.

Mississippi River Delta plain

The Mississippi River Delta is the river delta at the confluence of the Mississippi River with the Gulf of Mexico, in Louisiana in the southeastern United States. It is a three-million-acre area of land that stretches from Vermilion Bay on the west, to the Chandeleur Islands in the east, on Louisiana's southeastern coast. It is part of the Louisiana coastal plain, one of the largest areas of coastal wetlands in the United States. The Mississippi River Delta is the 7th largest river delta on Earth (USGS) and is an important coastal region for the United States, containing more than 2.7 million acres of coastal wetlands and 37% of the estuarine marsh in the conterminous U.S. The coastal area is the nation's largest drainage basin and drains about 41% of the contiguous United States into the Gulf of Mexico at an average rate of 470,000 cubic feet per second.

See also

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Distributary stream that branches off and flows away from a main stream channel

A distributary, or a distributary channel, is a stream that branches off and flows away from a main stream channel. Distributaries are a common feature of river deltas. The phenomenon is known as river bifurcation. The opposite of a distributary is a tributary. Distributaries are found where a stream nears a lake or an ocean. They can also occur inland, on alluvial fans, or where a tributary stream bifurcates as it nears its confluence with a larger stream. In some cases, a minor distributary can divert so much water from the main channel that it can become the main route.

Lake Pontchartrain estuary located in southeastern Louisiana, United States

Lake Pontchartrain is a brackish estuary located in southeastern Louisiana in the United States. It covers an area of 630 square miles (1,600 km2) with an average depth of 12 to 14 feet. Some shipping channels are kept deeper through dredging. It is roughly oval in shape, about 40 miles (64 km) from west to east and 24 miles (39 km) from south to north.

Pearl River (Mississippi–Louisiana) river in the U.S. states of Mississippi and Louisiana

The Pearl River is a river in the U.S. states of Mississippi and Louisiana. It forms in Neshoba County, Mississippi from the confluence of Nanih Waiya and Tallahaga creeks. and has a meander length of 444 miles (715 km). The lower part of the river forms part of the boundary between Mississippi and Louisiana. The river contains large areas of bottomland hardwood swamp and cypress swamp, providing habitat for many species of wildlife including sturgeon and black bears. As recently as 2008, endangered Ivory-billed woodpeckers were reportedly sighted here. The mouth of the river provides important marsh habitat along salinity gradients; these marshes have been the subject of many scientific studies. It is considered to be one of the most critical areas of natural habitat remaining in Louisiana. The Mississippi state capital, Jackson, is located on the river.

Gulf Intracoastal Waterway

The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway is the portion of the Intracoastal Waterway located along the Gulf Coast of the United States. It is a navigable inland waterway running approximately 1,050 mi (1,690 km) from Carrabelle, Florida, to Brownsville, Texas.

Old River Control Structure floodgate system in Louisiana, USA

The Old River Control Structure is a floodgate system in a branch of the Mississippi River in central Louisiana. It regulates the flow of water leaving the Mississippi into the Atchafalaya River, thereby preventing the Mississippi river from changing course. Completed in 1963, the complex was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in a side channel of the Mississippi known as "Old River", between the Mississippi's current channel and the Atchafalaya Basin, a former channel of the Mississippi. The Old River Control Structure is actually a complex containing the original low-sill and overbank structures, as well as the auxiliary structure that was constructed after the low-sill structure was damaged during the Mississippi River Flood of 1973. The complex also contains a navigation lock and the Sidney A. Murray Jr. Hydroelectric Station.

Mississippi Valley Division

The United States Army Corps of Engineers Mississippi Valley Division (MVD) is responsible for the Corps water resources programs within 370,000-square-miles of the Mississippi River Valley, as well as the watershed portions of the Red River of the North that are within the United States. It excludes the entire watersheds of the Missouri River and Ohio River, and portions of the Arkansas River and the Red River of the South, but otherwise encompasses the entire Mississippi River from Lake Itasca, Minnesota, to the Gulf of Mexico. The district includes all or parts of 13 states: Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and South Dakota.

Head of Passes

Head of Passes is where the main stem of the Mississippi River branches off into three distinct directions at its mouth in the Gulf of Mexico: Southwest Pass (west), Pass A Loutre (east) and South Pass (centre). They are part of the "Bird's Foot Delta", the youngest lobe of the evolving Mississippi River Delta.

Civil engineering and infrastructure repair in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina

Though Hurricane Katrina did not deal the city of New Orleans a direct hit on August 29, 2005, the associated storm surge precipitated catastrophic failures of the levees and flood walls. The Mississippi River Gulf Outlet ("MR-GO") breached its levees in approximately 15 places. The major levee breaches in the city include the 17th Street Canal levee, the London Avenue Canal, and the wide, navigable Industrial Canal, which left approximately 80% of the city flooded.

Wetlands of Louisiana

The wetlands of Louisiana are water-saturated coastal and swamp regions of southern Louisiana.

Bonnet Carré Spillway

The Bonnet Carré Spillway is a flood control operation in the Lower Mississippi Valley. Located in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana – about 12 miles (19 km) west of New Orleans – it allows floodwaters from the Mississippi River to flow into Lake Pontchartrain and thence into the Gulf of Mexico. The construction of the Spillway was completed in 1931.

Atchafalaya Basin largest wetland and swamp in the United States

The Atchafalaya Basin, or Atchafalaya Swamp, is the largest wetland and swamp in the United States. Located in south central Louisiana, it is a combination of wetlands and river delta area where the Atchafalaya River and the Gulf of Mexico converge. The river stretches from near Simmesport in the north through parts of eight parishes to the Morgan City southern area.

Mississippi River System drainage basin of the river Mississippi

The Mississippi River System, also referred to as the Western Rivers, is a mostly riverine network of the United States which includes the Mississippi River and connecting waterways. The Mississippi River is the largest drainage basin in the United States. In the United States, the Mississippi drains about forty-one percent of the country's rivers.

Morganza Spillway

The Morganza Spillway or Morganza Control Structure is a flood-control structure in the U.S. state of Louisiana along the western bank of the Lower Mississippi River at river mile 280, near Morganza in Pointe Coupee Parish. The spillway stands between the Mississippi and the Morganza Floodway, which leads to the Atchafalaya Basin and the Atchafalaya River in south-central Louisiana. Its purpose is to divert water from the Mississippi River during major flood events by flooding the Atchafalaya Basin, including the Atchafalaya River and the Atchafalaya Swamp. The spillway and adjacent levees also help prevent the Mississippi from changing its present course through the major port cities of Baton Rouge and New Orleans to a new course down the Atchafalaya River to the Gulf of Mexico. The Morganza Spillway, operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was opened during the 1973 and 2011 Mississippi River floods.

Sherburne Complex Wildlife Management Area

The Sherburne Complex is a joint land management venture of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that began in 1983. The area consists of 44,000 acres (180 km2), and is managed by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The complex is located in the Morganza Flood way system of the Atchafalaya Basin about 30 miles (48 km) west of Baton Rouge, Louisiana and actually extends a little south of the I-10 Atchafalaya Basin Bridge at Whiskey Bay, Louisiana. The bridge crosses the Whiskey Bay Pilot Channel. Located on the graveled LA 975, the west boundary is on the east side of the Atchafalaya River with the east boundary being the East Protection Levee. The complex stretches just north of old highway 190, and a short distance to the south of I-10. The nearest town is Krotz Springs to the north off US 190.

2011 Mississippi River floods Severe flooding across the Mississippi River Valley affected Louisiana

The Mississippi River floods in April and May 2011 were among the largest and most damaging recorded along the U.S. waterway in the past century, comparable in extent to the major floods of 1927 and 1993. In April 2011, two major storm systems deposited record levels of rainfall on the Mississippi River watershed. When that additional water combined with the springtime snowmelt, the river and many of its tributaries began to swell to record levels by the beginning of May. Areas along the Mississippi itself experiencing flooding included Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

West Atchafalaya Floodway

The West Atchafalaya Floodway is a flood control structure of the Mississippi River and Tributaries Project located in the Lower Atchafalaya Basin in south-central Louisiana. It has a project design flood flow capacity of 250,000 cu ft/s (7,100 m3/s).

Effects of Hurricane Isaac in Louisiana

The effects of Hurricane Isaac in Louisiana were more severe than anywhere in the storm's path, and included $611.8615 million in damages and five total deaths. Forming from a tropical wave in the central Atlantic, Isaac traversed across many of the Lesser and Greater Antilles, before reaching peak intensity with winds of 80 mph (130 km/h) on August 28, 2012 while in the Gulf of Mexico. Nearing the coast of Louisiana, the Category 1 hurricane slowly moved towards the west, making two landfalls in the state with little change of intensity prior to moving inland for a final time. The hurricane weakened and later dissipated on September 1 while over Missouri. Before landfall, Governor Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency to the state, as well as ordering the mandatory evacuation of 60,000 residents in low-lying areas of Louisiana along the Tangipahoa River in Tangipahoa Parish.


  1. Davidson, Robert A. (1988). Wax Lake Outlet control structure, Louisiana: hydraulic model investigation. Technical report HL ; 88-23. Vicksburg, Mississippi: US Army Corps of Engineers, Hydraulics Laboratory.
  2. "The Mississippi River & Tributaries Project: Designing the Project Flood" (PDF), United States Army Corps of Engineers, April 2008, retrieved 2011-05-16
  3. 1 2 3 4 "Wax Lake Delta". National Center for Earth-Surface Dynamics. University of Minnesota. Retrieved 2011-06-01.
  4. 1 2 3 Pushing Back the Sea
  5. Wax Lake outlet passes- Louisianasportsman.com: Retrieved 2016-08-07

Coordinates: 29°35′28″N91°25′12″W / 29.591°N 91.420°W / 29.591; -91.420