Tensas National Wildlife Refuge is a magical place of forest, bayous, lakes, and wetlands. The last verifiable sighting of the Ivory-billed woodpecker was 1944 in these forests. Some diligent birders are still looking for the ivory-billed here, although I think they will have more success in the remote and rugged mountain forests in Cuba. The Louisiana Digital Library has photographs of the woodpecker and the forests when they were still largely pristine.
During the 2020 Audubon Christmas bird count, one birder volunteered to explore the woods along Judd Bayou. I had never been to that area and decided to check the access in mid-December. To reach the bayou, you take Charles Brown Road off US 80 just east of Waverly and follow it south over I-20. It passes farms and then enters the forest at the boundary of Tensas NWR. Abruptly, you are in a forest from another time. Where is the dinosaur? The road runs parallel to the Tensas River along its west bank. It ends at an old-fashioned riveted steel girder bridge with a sign that cars are not allowed to cross.
|Judd Bayou bridge (Kodak Ektar 25 film, Hasselblad 501CM, 80mm ƒ/2.8 Planar-CB lens)|
The late afternoon light was perfect, and I took a frame on the long-discontinued, ultra high resolution Kodak Ektar 25 film. Click the picture to expand to 2400 pixels wide to see details.
Bridge details from the Louisiana Department of Transport:
- Parish: Madison
- Bridge Configuration: Through truss Pratt truss
- Bridge name: (none)
- Facility carried and feature crossed: OLD HWY 80 over JUDD BAYOU
- Year built: 1908
- Owner: Bureau of Fish and Wildlife, Federal ownership
The LADOT information about Hwy 80 is almost surely incorrect because 80 ran E-W through north Louisiana, approximately following the main railroad line. I doubt it made a big swing south into this forested region, which was formerly known as the Singer Tract (owned by the Singer Sewing Machine company).
A 4-wheeler track may lead south from the bridge, eventually connecting to Quebec Road, but I am not sure. I could not go further in my car, but it was a lovely setting, and I did not see any dinosaurs or ivory-billed woodpeckers. Imagine the magnificence of these forests if they had not been logged and destroyed in the 1940s.
|Forest near Rainey Lake (Kodak Panatomic-X film, Rolleiflex 3.5E Xenotar lens)|
|Forest off Quebec Road (Kodak Panatomic-X film, Rolleiflex 3.5E Xenotar lens)|
Here are two examples of the magnificent hardwood bottomland scenery from 2019.
|Barn on Charles Brown Road|
Tensas NWR is a bit out of the way but well worth a diversion to visit.
Write your Federal representatives to support and expand the National Wildlife Refuge system, as well as National Monuments. Protect the wild lands that we still have; leave a legacy for your descendants. Undo the mismanagement, pillage, corruption, and destruction of our natural environment wrought by the previous administration in Washington.