The Louisiana Atchafalaya River Basin is one of the most dynamic and critical environments in the country. The river's immense floodway is the ancestral home of the American Cajun population; it sustains the nation's last cypress-tupelo wetland and provides habitat for many species of animals. Perhaps most crucial, it remains a primary component of the plan to control the Mississippi River and relieve flooding in communities in the lower river valley.
The continuing health of the basin is a reflection not of nature, but of the work of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. With levee building and clearing in the nineteenth century and damming, dredging, and floodway construction in the twentieth, the basin was converted from a vast forested swamp into a designer wetland, where human aspirations and nature needs maintained a precarious equilibrium. Originally published by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, this history of the Atchafalaya Basin was hailed as a balanced yet unflinching account of the transformation of an area that has endured perhaps more human manipulation than any other natural environment in the nation.
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