Bayou

Bayou

Overview


A bayou is an American term for a body of water typically found in flat, low-lying areas, and can refer either to an extremely slow-moving stream
Stream
A stream is a body of water with a current, confined within a bed and stream banks. Depending on its locale or certain characteristics, a stream may be referred to as a branch, brook, beck, burn, creek, "crick", gill , kill, lick, rill, river, syke, bayou, rivulet, streamage, wash, run or...

 or river
River
A river is a natural watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, a lake, a sea, or another river. In a few cases, a river simply flows into the ground or dries up completely before reaching another body of water. Small rivers may also be called by several other names, including...

 (often with a poorly defined shoreline), or to a marshy lake or wetland. The name "bayou" can also refer to creeks that see level changes due to tides and hold brackish water which is highly conducive to fish life and plankton.
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A bayou is an American term for a body of water typically found in flat, low-lying areas, and can refer either to an extremely slow-moving stream
Stream
A stream is a body of water with a current, confined within a bed and stream banks. Depending on its locale or certain characteristics, a stream may be referred to as a branch, brook, beck, burn, creek, "crick", gill , kill, lick, rill, river, syke, bayou, rivulet, streamage, wash, run or...

 or river
River
A river is a natural watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, a lake, a sea, or another river. In a few cases, a river simply flows into the ground or dries up completely before reaching another body of water. Small rivers may also be called by several other names, including...

 (often with a poorly defined shoreline), or to a marshy lake or wetland. The name "bayou" can also refer to creeks that see level changes due to tides and hold brackish water which is highly conducive to fish life and plankton. Bayous are commonly found in the Gulf Coast
Gulf Coast of the United States
The Gulf Coast of the United States, sometimes referred to as the Gulf South, South Coast, or 3rd Coast, comprises the coasts of American states that are on the Gulf of Mexico, which includes Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida and are known as the Gulf States...

 region of the southern United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, notably the Mississippi River region
Mississippi Delta
The Mississippi Delta is the distinctive northwest section of the U.S. state of Mississippi that lies between the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers. The region has been called "The Most Southern Place on Earth" because of its unique racial, cultural, and economic history...

, with the state of Louisiana being famous for them. A bayou is frequently an anabranch
Anabranch
An anabranch is a section of a river or stream that diverts from the main channel or stem of the watercourse and rejoins the main stem downstream. Local anabranches can be the result of small islands in the watercourse...

 or minor braid of a braided channel that is moving much more slowly than the mainstem
Mainstem (hydrology)
In relation to hydrology, a main stem is "the primary downstream segment of a river, as contrasted to its tributaries". Another common term for the main stem, the final large channel of a riverine system, is the trunk. Water enters the main stem from the river's drainage basin, the land area...

, often becoming boggy and stagnant. Though vegetation varies by region, many bayous are home to crawfish, certain species of shrimp
Shrimp
Shrimp are swimming, decapod crustaceans classified in the infraorder Caridea, found widely around the world in both fresh and salt water. Adult shrimp are filter feeding benthic animals living close to the bottom. They can live in schools and can swim rapidly backwards. Shrimp are an important...

, other shellfish
Shellfish
Shellfish is a culinary and fisheries term for exoskeleton-bearing aquatic invertebrates used as food, including various species of molluscs, crustaceans, and echinoderms. Although most kinds of shellfish are harvested from saltwater environments, some kinds are found only in freshwater...

, catfish
Catfish
Catfishes are a diverse group of ray-finned fish. Named for their prominent barbels, which resemble a cat's whiskers, catfish range in size and behavior from the heaviest and longest, the Mekong giant catfish from Southeast Asia and the second longest, the wels catfish of Eurasia, to detritivores...

, frog
Frog
Frogs are amphibians in the order Anura , formerly referred to as Salientia . Most frogs are characterized by a short body, webbed digits , protruding eyes and the absence of a tail...

s, american alligator
American Alligator
The American alligator , sometimes referred to colloquially as a gator, is a reptile endemic only to the Southeastern United States. It is one of the two living species of alligator, in the genus Alligator, within the family Alligatoridae...

s, american crocodiles
American Crocodile
The American crocodile is a species of crocodilian found in the Neotropics. It is the most widespread of the four extant species of crocodiles from the Americas. Populations occur from the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of southern Mexico to South America as far as Peru and Venezuela. It also lives...

, and myriad other species.

The word was first used by the English
English people
The English are a nation and ethnic group native to England, who speak English. The English identity is of early mediaeval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Anglecynn. England is now a country of the United Kingdom, and the majority of English people in England are British Citizens...

 in Louisiana
Louisiana
Louisiana is a state located in the southern region of the United States of America. Its capital is Baton Rouge and largest city is New Orleans. Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are local governments equivalent to counties...

 and is thought to originate from the Choctaw
Choctaw
The Choctaw are a Native American people originally from the Southeastern United States...

 word "bayuk," which means "small stream." The first settlements of Acadian
Acadian
The Acadians are the descendants of the 17th-century French colonists who settled in Acadia . Acadia was a colony of New France...

s in southern Louisiana were near Bayou Teche
Bayou Teche
The Bayou Teche is a waterway of great cultural significance in south central Louisiana in the United States. Bayou Teche was the Mississippi River's main course when it developed a delta about 2,800 to 4,500 years ago...

 and other bayous, which led to a close association of the bayou with Cajun
Cajun
Cajuns are an ethnic group mainly living in the U.S. state of Louisiana, consisting of the descendants of Acadian exiles...

 culture.

Bayou Country is most closely associated with Cajun
Cajun
Cajuns are an ethnic group mainly living in the U.S. state of Louisiana, consisting of the descendants of Acadian exiles...

 and Creole
Louisiana Creole people
Louisiana Creole people refers to those who are descended from the colonial settlers in Louisiana, especially those of French and Spanish descent. The term was first used during colonial times by the settlers to refer to those who were born in the colony, as opposed to those born in the Old World...

 cultural groups native to the Gulf Coast region generally stretching from Houston, Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

, to Mobile, Alabama
Mobile, Alabama
Mobile is the third most populous city in the Southern US state of Alabama and is the county seat of Mobile County. It is located on the Mobile River and the central Gulf Coast of the United States. The population within the city limits was 195,111 during the 2010 census. It is the largest...

, and picking back up in South Florida around The Everglades with its center in New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is a major United States port and the largest city and metropolitan area in the state of Louisiana. The New Orleans metropolitan area has a population of 1,235,650 as of 2009, the 46th largest in the USA. The New Orleans – Metairie – Bogalusa combined statistical area has a population...

.

An alternate spelling "buyou" has also been used, as in "Pine Buyou," used in a description by Congress in 1833 of Arkansas Territory.

See also

  • Wetland
    Wetland
    A wetland is an area of land whose soil is saturated with water either permanently or seasonally. Wetlands are categorised by their characteristic vegetation, which is adapted to these unique soil conditions....

  • Swamp
    Swamp
    A swamp is a wetland with some flooding of large areas of land by shallow bodies of water. A swamp generally has a large number of hammocks, or dry-land protrusions, covered by aquatic vegetation, or vegetation that tolerates periodical inundation. The two main types of swamp are "true" or swamp...

  • Hurricane on the Bayou
    Hurricane on the Bayou
    Hurricane on the Bayou is a 2008 documentary film that focuses on the wetlands of Louisiana before and after Hurricane Katrina.Hurricane on the Bayou is both a documentary of Hurricane Katrina's effects and a call to restore Louisiana's wetlands, rebuild New Orleans, and honor the culture of the city...

  • New Orleans
  • Louisiana
    Louisiana
    Louisiana is a state located in the southern region of the United States of America. Its capital is Baton Rouge and largest city is New Orleans. Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are local governments equivalent to counties...

  • Florida
    Florida
    Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

  • Bayou City
    Bayou City
    Bayou City is a popular nickname for the city of Houston, Texas, founded at the confluence of White Oak and Buffalo Bayous by the Allen Brothers in the early nineteenth century...

     (a nickname for Houston, which is crossed by as many as eighteen natural streams bearing the designation.)

Notable bayous

  • Bayou Bartholomew
    Bayou Bartholomew
    Bayou Bartholomew is the longest bayou in the world meandering approximately between two states. It contains over 100 aquatic species making it the second most diverse stream in North America. Known for its excellent bream, catfish, and crappie fishing, portions of the bayou are considered some of...

  • Bayou Lafourche
    Bayou Lafourche
    Bayou Lafourche, originally called Chetimachas River, is a bayou in southeastern Louisiana, United States, that flows into the Gulf of Mexico. The first settlements of Acadians in southern Louisiana were near Bayou Lafourche and Bayou des Écores, which led to a close association of the bayou with...

  • Bayou Teche
    Bayou Teche
    The Bayou Teche is a waterway of great cultural significance in south central Louisiana in the United States. Bayou Teche was the Mississippi River's main course when it developed a delta about 2,800 to 4,500 years ago...

  • Cypress Bayou
    Cypress Bayou
    Cypress Bayou is the name applied to a series of wetlands at the western edge of Caddo Lake, in and around Jefferson, Texas, making up part of the largest Cypress forest in the world. The bayou is divided into three areas—each part of the watershed of a small river or creek—Little...

  • Bayou St. John
    Bayou St. John
    Bayou St. John is a bayou within the city of New Orleans, Louisiana.The Bayou as a natural feature drained the swampy land of a good portion of what was to become New Orleans into Lake Pontchartrain...

  • Big Bayou Canot
    Big Bayou Canot train disaster
    The 1993 Big Bayou Canot train wreck was the derailing of an Amtrak train on the CSXT Big Bayou Canot bridge in northeast Mobile, Alabama, USA, killing 47 and injuring 103, on September 22, 1993. It is the deadliest train wreck in Amtrak's history...

  • Buffalo Bayou
    Buffalo Bayou
    Buffalo Bayou is a main waterway flowing through Houston, in Harris County, Texas, USA. It begins in Katy, Fort Bend County, Texas and flows approximately east to the Houston Ship Channel and then into Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico...

  • Bayou La Batre
    Bayou La Batre, Alabama
    Bayou La Batre is a town in Mobile County, Alabama, United States. It is included in the Mobile metropolitan statistical area. At the 2000 census, the population was 2,313. According to the 2005 U.S. Census estimates, the city had a population of 2,725....