The Great Delta
The Great Mississippi, the largest river system in North America, has shaped the bountiful and diverse ecologies, cultures and economies of south Louisiana. Coastal New Orleans has risen out of this delta from a backwater outpost in the 1700’s to one of the largest, most diverse cities in the country by the mid 1800’s.
New Orleans, one of the oldest cities in America, is built on some of the youngest land created by sediment deposited by the Mississippi River only 5,000 years ago. In this one-of-a-kind working river delta, human ingenuity has taken the natural resources of the region and built economic assets that are vital to America and the world. Not only is it vibrant in its arts, culture and natural environment, but coastal New Orleans is also an international hub of maritime commerce, energy, seafood production, tourism and technology.
The Great Delta Tours offers an insider’s perspective with engaging and informative guides about one of the most fascinating places, people and environments in the world.
The rich, alluvial soil of the Mississippi River Delta has created a vast tapestry of fisheries, plant life and marine life in its forests, swamps, marshes, estuaries, river channels and islands. The river delta represents one of the largest wetlands ecosystems in the world that acts as fertile nurseries for marine and wildlife. Because of these vast wetlands, Coastal New Orleans is positioned along one of the major migratory flyways in the world with billions of birds passing over south Louisiana as they make their trek every spring and fall between North, Central and South America.
The Mississippi River Delta is on the verge of collapse. Coastal land loss is happening at an alarming rate equal to a football field every hour. Since the Mississippi River was straight-jacketed with levees in the early 1930’s, Coastal Louisiana has lost over 2,000 square miles that equal the size of Delaware.
Before the levees were built, extensive wetlands-about 5o miles of marsh- provided protection from hurricane winds and blunted storm surge. Now the region’s wetlands are vanishing, taking the protective trees and marsh grasses with it that act as giant speed bumps that reduce the devastating impact and damage caused by hurricanes and storm surge.
Many factors have contributed to this collapse.
Levees along the Mississippi River were built to protect communities and farmland after the devastating flood of 1927. The “unintended” consequences of this action has been the subsidence and sinking of wetlands as a result of being cut off from river’s rich sediment deposits. Without land-building sediment of sand, silt and clay from the river, the delta will erode and disappear underwater endangering communities, wildlife and jobs of coastal Louisiana.
Thousands of miles of oil and gas canals and shipping channels-like the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet-have been dug to accommodate the building of infrastructure and energy extraction. These canals have allowed saltwater to penetrate deep into the wetlands and changed the hydrology destroying wetlands ecosystems built by fresh water.
Wetlands land loss has been exacerbated by environmental catastrophes like Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, as well as the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill disaster that spewed 206 million gallons into the Gulf, damaging hundreds of miles of coast. Both of these disasters pummeled an already degraded Louisiana coastline and reduced the natural wetlands protection for 1.5 million people in coastal Louisiana.
Restoring the Mississippi River Delta will take large-scale projects that can restore or imitate the river’s natural processes of sediment deposits to protect the area from natural storms and flooding. The solutions to helping restore these natural processes will involve the reintroduction of freshwater and sediment to the coastal system while preparing for future conditions of the delta ecosystem.
Restoration of a healthy, productive Mississippi River Delta also requires implementation and coordination of various strategies working in tandem that is referred to as “Multiple Lines of Defense”. These include:
- Reconnecting the river to the delta through land-building sediment diversions
- Strategic use of dredged sediments to build and sustain wetlands and barrier islands
- Improved management of the Mississippi River
- Adopting community resilience measures.
Many restoration projects are underway throughout coastal Louisiana with a total annual investment of over $1 billion since 2022 that creates over 10,000 jobs. However, many more projects and funding is needed to carry out Louisiana’s comprehensive vision for the delta’s future. Learn more about the Restore the Mississippi River Delta’s near-term priority restoration projects on their website.
Coastal Louisiana Is Important to the Nation
Coastal Louisiana is important to the nation since its natural, cultural and economic assets contribute to the nation’s viability in international trade, energy, agriculture, fisheries, tourism and culture. Restoring Louisiana’s coast will ensure a resilient future and jobs for the nation. Louisiana’s impact and contributions include:
- The five deep-water ports of south Louisiana move over 500 million tons of cargo, more than any other port in the U.S.
- Produces 90 percent of the country’s outer continental oil and gas
- Migratory stopover and wintering habitat for more than 100 million birds annually
Louisiana’s comprehensive coastal restoration effort represents the largest climate adaptation project in the world that provides critical research, data practical solutions in addressing climate change in the U.S and world.
Ready to Do the Delta?
The Great Delta Tours provides unique, immersive eco tours of the region’s rich, but fragile ecosystem that will ensure, as it is restored, a more resilient environment, economy and communities in south Louisiana. If you’re interested in learning more about the tour, or looking to book a tour, click the icon below, or contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org, 888-316-1338 or 504-240-0010.