North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain

Fontainebleau State Park , Louisiana
October 2009
Oil on canvas
24 x 36 in. (61 x 91.4 cm)

Private collection

. . . Lake Pontchartrain, along whose North shores, we coasted about twenty miles, having low, reedy marshes, on our starboard: these marshes were very extensive between us and the far distant high forests on the main. . . . – William Bartram 1775

When you leave out the long, thin line of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway that virtually spans the horizon in this view, it’s not hard to imagine an 18th century sailing vessel, no bigger than a speck in the distance, cruising off this marshy shore. Considering the urban and industrial transformation that has occurred especially on the south side of the lake, it’s a marvel that this section of the north shore still retains the character summed up in William Bartram’s description. This view looking over the marshy edge of the great lake is from a boardwalk in Fontainebleau State Park, one of the public lands which protects this section of fringing marsh from development.

Like so many Gulf Coast wetlands, the north shore marshes of Lake Pontchartrain, experienced extensive conversion to open water during the hurricanes of 2005. In fact, the open water in the middle ground of this picture was as grassy as the marsh around it before Katrina. With time and luck, the dominant saltmeadow cordgrass (Spartina patens) will recolonize that opening. That grass and the blue crabs I could see in the murky water indicate the brackish water in this part of the lake, so close to the Gulf of Mexico. *

* This is an excerpt from Philip’s essay appearing in: Bartram’s Living Legacy: Travels and the Nature of the South

Studio painting – October.

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