Where Does Boeuf River Begin?
By the Beouf with Beth, ca., 1963
The Richland Beacon-News, Rayville, Louisiana
29 Jun 1963, Sat • Page 3
….The beginning of Boeuf River has baffled me. You can’t pinpoint its headwaters In the same place on many maps and I’ve studied a lot of them recently. From the obscure pale, blue line that marks the river’s origin and southern course, I’ve had the impression the Boeuf was a trickling stream through most of Arkansas. In our search for the Boeuf’s beginning, I learned it’s much the opposite.
Here in Arkansas the Boeuf is a wide, deep canal cutting a swath through the country that makes our Boeuf look like a trickling stream in comparison. And I was happy to learn that weirs (like our Boeuf will have) are responsible for maintaining the water level and preventing the growth of willow trees.
We started our Arkansas journey north on Highway 183 at Holly Ridge and drove 15 of the straightest highway miles in Louisiana. The flat prairie country on both sides of the road impressed me with the vastness of Ward Two. Cattle dotted fresh green pastures and cotton rows stretched out of sight, mile after mile. On ditch banks wild hibiscus nodded in the noonday sun, their pale yellow petals half closed around a black-purple botch centered in’ this blossom that is much like that of the okra.
En route to our destination in the vicinity of Lake Village, Ark., we took side trips to see the Boeuf. Our first stop was on Highway Two between Lake Providence and Mer Rouge. Here a high bridge painted with red lead spans the Boeuf where the river also serves as the boundary line between Morehouse and West Carroll Parishes.
The river is straight, deep and clear of debris as the result of dredging some years ago. On the south side of the bridge, cattle grazed on a sloping bank. While to the north, a continuous thicket of weeping, willows bordered the river and dipped their branches into the cloudy gray-brown water. We left Highway Two and went back to Number 585, continuing north. For a span of driving, we were impressed by the number of red-headed woodpeckers that darted in waving pattern across the road.
The sun was bright and the curving paved road was hot at’ the place we stopped to look at the river, just this side of the Louisiana-Arkansas line. A farmer sat rocking contentedly in his chair on the porch of a nearby cottage. He told us the’ river was up from recent rains and is now 10 to 12 feet deep.
“Too high for good fishing,” he said. Down a sloping path we walked to the river’s edge. Three john boats were tied to willow trees. A big turtle bucked choppy waves in the water’s current. After we took several pictures, we climbed back to the highway and didn’t stop again until we were in Arkansas Route 52 dead-ends on the straightest black-purple Boeuf banks.
Here the river was much the same as the previous stop. The gravel road leading to the river was colorful with scattered patches of yellow patridge-peas and I plucked a blossom from a passion plant (maypop) that ran along the river bank. Such an intricate blossom, named by early Catholic explorers, who could see symbols of Christ’s crucifixion in the blossom. We had covered the scenic lakefront street of Lake Village and headed out of town, when we saw a young, red-headed man waiting to cross the road. We stopped and asked the location of the Boeufs headwaters.
I’ve got a farm up that way,” he said.
“If you’re not going to be gone long, I’ll ride up there and show you.”
On Highway 65 between McGhee and Lake Village, we parked near the bridge marked Boeuf Canal 1938. Here the Boeuf is straight and clean. Mr. Evans pointed to a place up the stream where the water ruffled over a low waterfall the width of the river.
“That’s a weir,” he said.
“We have about six of them staggered every six to eight miles. Keeps water in the river and willows out.”
“I’m glad to hear that,” I said and I’m glad to have seen a weir.”
At this sight, an impassably three-fourths of a mile separated us from drainage ditches that Dean Evans told us make-up the head of Boeuf River.
Coming back to Lake Village, we crossed Macon Lake and took the Mississippi River Levee Road. This high levee afforded us a magnificent view of southeast Arkansas’ booming soybean crops and well-advanced cotton crops. For miles, we feasted our eyes on fields of shimmering green. “This is a beautiful country,” I said.
“We’re proud of it,” replied Mr. Evans, who is the most enthusiastic farmer I’ve met.
Off the Levee Road, we swung through Chicot Lake State Park. Close to the lakefront, colorful camping tents and trailers were tucked beneath towering trees. Nearby wooded areas were being cleared for campsite expansion. Back in Lake Village we left Mr. Evans at his lane and thanked him for his personally conducted tour to show us where the Boeuf begins…The Richland Beacon-News, Rayville, Louisiana
29 Jun 1963, Sat • Page 3