Lake Pontchartrain recently plummeted nearly three feet on July 23, allowing students to walk on the dunes that emerged in the water.
“I’ve never seen it in my lifetime in the summer,” said Milton Cambre, who has been environmentalist for nearly 55 years in the LaBranche Wetland. “I think our weather is changing. I’m pushing 83 [years old] next month and I’ve never seen this.”
Although low tides are common in fall, Cambre said they aren’t in summer and this one fell so low as to reveal what he called the lake’s “old shoreline.”
Cambre was assisting with Swamp School at the Wetland Watchers Park when the water level fell so low that students paddled their canoes to the sandbars, which were about 400 yards offshore from the park.
Barry Guillot, who founded Swamp School, said they walked on those sand bars, which were then barely covered by two feet of water.
“It was crazy,” Guillot said.
Cambre said he considered it the result of changing weather.
“I think our weather is changing. I’m pushing 83 [years old] next month and I’ve never seen this.” – Milton Cambre
“We have so many problems when we get these rain events like in New Orleans a year ago and now with the east getting flooded and the west is burning up,” he said. “There are too many things happening. It is getting hotter.”
The lake remained at a lower tide throughout Swamp School, but the July 23 level was the lowest he’d observed during the two-week school.
He’s seen a low tide like this, but in fall.
Swamp School students walked on the dunes or what Milton calls the “old shoreline.” He recalled there once being a big shell reef there that he walked on many times, but long ago went under water.
“Looking out there, it was just amazing to me to see these kids walking out there,” he said. “Normally, when you look at the lake, you see water. To see where the land was was amazing.”
He also welcomed the event as an opportunity for the Swamp School students to see how Louisiana’s coast is changing.
“It struck me as a good opportunity to educate those kids on losing our coast,” Cambre said. “That is the proof of what is happening with coastal erosion. This is proof the coast is disappearing in our backyard, too.”
Pilings have been driven in anticipation of placing a pavilion in the park, he said.
“Our coast is disappearing and, without a doubt, the problem will only get worse,” Cambre said. “I’m so glad those kids could see where the shoreline was. Until the early 1930s, we were building land, but now we’re losing it at about 10 to 12 feet a year. That adds up pretty good.”