Bayou Teche gains elite national status
The father-daughter crew of Steven and Bethany Wright enter the portage around the Keystone Lock and Dam below St. Martinville in Tour du Teche III. The annual canoe and kayak race is one of several recreational activities now centered on Bayou Teche.
Bayou Teche here and the Huron River in Michigan have become the 17th and 18th waterways added to the National Water Trails System.
The National Water Trail System is a “network of national exemplary water trails that can be sustained by an ever-growing water trail community,” according to information provided by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
“The National Water Trail System helps people discover the natural beauty and history of local places and provides fun opportunities for families to explore the world around them.” said Interior Secretary Jewell, who bestowed the honor last week.
“The National Park Service collaborates closely with partners to develop these water trails, which provide health, social, and economic benefits to their local communities,” said Jonathan B. Jarvis, director of the National Park Service. “These joint efforts help us reach new communities and educate them about the importance of preserving the natural and cultural heritage that can be found in their own backyards.”
Bayou Teche had already been designated a paddle trail by the National Park Service in recognition of its accessibility, beauty and history.
The higher distinction also bestowed also takes into consideration the community’s support of the waterway, as organized locally by the TECHE Project.
“The Teche has historic and cultural value to us, and we are happy to share it with the nation,” said Conni Castille, executive director of the TECHE Project.
“The trail exemplifies the natural beauty of South Louisiana bayous and its people,” she said.
“We worked with communities to submit the bayou for this recognition because it is a great economic driver for tourism,” said Kristen Kordecki, project manager.
“It opens up doors and it will put more focus on the bayou and enable us to apply for more grant funding and also get corporate sponsors and get everyone energized on the bayou to support the wonderful things that are going on on the Teche,” said Patti Holland, coordinator of Shake Your Trail Feather, an annual fund-raiser for the Bayou Teche Paddle Trail.
The recognition is for the entire length of Bayou Teche –135 miles from Port Barre in St. Landry Parish to Berwick in St. Mary Parish, with St. Martin and Iberia parishes and more than a dozen towns in between. It is part of the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area.
“The Huron River Water Trail is a 104-mile-long inland paddling trail allowing exploration of the river’s natural and historic resources and the communities along the river in Michigan,” notes the National Park Service. “Offering access to flat-water paddling through picturesque scenery, the Huron River Water Trail has stimulated local economies, encouraged people to enjoy the outdoors and strengthened community pride, partnerships and collaboration.”
You can explore the entire National Water Trails System through videos, stories and pictures at www.nps.gov/watertrails.