Friday, June 8, 2018

A River (Ditch) Flows through Vicksburg: Stouts Bayou

Stouts Bayou (in red), Vicksburg, Mississippi. Map created with ESRI ArcGIS Online.
Definition of bayou. 1 : a creek, secondary watercourse, or minor river that is tributary to another body of water. 2 : any of various usually marshy or sluggish bodies of water. (from Merriam-Webster online)

Stouts Bayou starts its circuitous path in northeast Vicksburg somewhere in the gullies below Beulah Cemetery, according to the US Geological Survey topographic map. It flows approximately southwest through town, passes by the Lee Street ball field (near Vicksburg High School), continues south near the Vicksburg water treatment plant, and eventually discharges into the Mississippi River just north of Letourneau Landing. I asked a friend, a former city engineer, about the bayou. He said that a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project in the 1930s channelized much of the creek as it wound through the then-developed parts of the city (which, back then, meant the areas occupied by white residents). But the city did not acquire the right-of-way. Private property owners own the land on which the bayou flows and the city does not have a perpetual easement or permission to have access. In decades past, when labor costs were low, city workers would regularly clean trees and debris from the channel. I do not know how they got permission to access private land or if they bothered with such bureaucratic business in the past. City workers still clean brush and trash from the sewer or water pipes that cross the bayou in various areas. But the pipes are often located near bridges or roads and have easy access. But for general cleaning, the city now needs to secure written single-use access permission and hires contractors for the work. I read in the Vicksburg Post in 2017 that some land-owners refused to grant the city single use permission and the contractor could not reach some areas of the bayou. As usual, as an outsider not employed by the city or trained in law, such nonsense baffles me.

Since the channelization project in the 1930s, the bayou has received little maintenance. Some of the banks have been rip-rapped (stone placement) or concreted, but many of the 1930s panels are buckled or lifted. That means there is more friction for the flow.

We will take a short tour of Stouts Bayou from various bridges in town, starting upstream and moving downstream. (Click any photograph to enlarge it.)
1920s bridge at Grove and 4th North Streets, Vicksburg. Photograph from 2012.
This brick arch bridge on Grove Street is an example of the robust infrastructure built in the 1920s. The bridge seems to be sound, but the weeds and brush could use trimming.
Stouts Bayou from East Avenue (near Olive Street).
Looking south from the bridge at East Avenue, the stream bed is a mess. Trees have displaced some of the original concrete channel, blocks have been uplifted, and trash and debris have been discarded into the channel.
Stouts Bayou west from Drummond Street bridge.
Stouts Bayou west from Drummond Street
The bayou passes under Drummond Street just south of the Bowmar Avenue intersection. The channel is a dirty mess with brush, broken concrete slabs, and trash.
Avenue B footbridge, January 2018.
Stouts Bayou from Avenue B footbridge, January 2018.
West of Drummond Street, the land drops into a valley occupied by a series of small streets with letter names. A steel footbridge crosses Stouts Bayou from Avenue B to Valley Street. The photograph above is the view south taken during the January 2018 snow storm.

Stouts Bayou from Avenue C. Kodak Ektar 25 film from Hasselblad camera.
The view south from Avenue C shows carelessly placed riprap for stream bank protection. Some of the 1930s concrete channel appears displaced.
Stouts Bayou, National Street. Kodak TMax 100 film.
At National Street, the Bayou still has the concrete channel. During low water, I have walked in the channel here.
Stouts Bayou from Lee Street. Kodak Ektar 25 film from Hasselblad camera (50mm Distagon lens).
The bayou flows south under a bridge on Lee Street, just west of where Stadium Drive joins Lee. Not a pretty sight. This an example of what is happening to infrastructure all over the USA.
Stouts Bayou at Patricia Street (Moto G5 photograph).
Stouts Bayou at Patricia Street (Moto G5 photograph).
Patricia Street is a little known street that extends off Army-Navy Drive, past the City's maintenance and vehicle shops. Patricia dead ends, so there is no through traffic. The bayou marks the west edge of a small community of houses. I have photographed there before, but over the years, many houses have been demolished.
Stouts Bayou bridge (approx. 1903) was replaced in 1937 with a similar girder span and then again in the 1960s with a modern concrete span.
The bridge in the photograph above is in approximately the same position as the contemporary concrete span that carries the North Frontage Road. The Kansas City Southern Tracks are in the same position as a century ago, and the bayou runs under one of the spans on the right (from a 2000 brochure titled Highways in Harmony, Vicksburg Military Park Tour Roads from the National Park Service, documented in 1997 by the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER)). Photograph attribution:

46. Steel viaduct spanning stout's bayou and railroad on South Confederate Avenue. Destroyed circa 1938. - Vicksburg National Military Park Roads & Bridges, Vicksburg, Warren County, MS

Title: 46. Steel viaduct spanning stout's bayou and railroad on South Confederate Avenue. Destroyed circa 1938. - Vicksburg National Military Park Roads & Bridges, Vicksburg, Warren County, MS
Creator(s): Faust, William A. II., creator
Date Created/Published: 1997
Medium: 4 x 5 in.

This ends out short tour of Stouts Bayou. South of town, it is less accessible, and I have not seen where it flows into the Mississippi River.

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