What is the Lower Mississippi River “batture?”
In the simplest terms, it refers to the lands and waters remaining between federal levees or bluffs along the eastern and western banks of the river. It is what remains of the river’s active floodplain. The batture covers approximately 2 million acres between Cairo, Illinois, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Downstream of Baton Rouge, the area between levees or high banks averages less than 1 mile wide. Upstream of Baton Rouge, the batture averages 6.5 miles wide and is up to 15 miles wide in some places, according to an article by scientists at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, or ERDC.
Other highlights of the 2018 ERDC article:
- The Lower Mississippi River still has the “largest, most intact floodplain” of any U.S. river.
- The seasonal inundation of the batture helps sustain the productivity of the river’s main channel providing places for fish to spawn and through the exchange of nutrients and organic matter.
- Conservation and restoration of batture habitats “will ensure its ecological contribution” to the Lower Mississippi River.
The river’s current floodplain, obscured by levees, is out of sight for most Americans. But the batture provides diverse natural habitats such as secondary channels, islands, forests, wetlands, sloughs and lakes.
Before the construction of levees, flooding extended over much of the 24-million-acre Mississippi Alluvial Valley. Federal levees constructed after 1928 have reduced the size of the river’s floodplain by 90 percent.
The word “batture” is derived from the French word “battre,” meaning “to beat.” In other words, batture is the land beaten by the river.
What does the batture mean to the Lower Mississippi River Conservation Committee (LMRCC)? It is the place where we work.
In this ecologically valuable region, the LMRCC has restored flow to more than 100 miles of secondary channels to benefit fish, birds and other wildlife, and we have helped the Mississippi River Trust and the Natural Resources Conservation Service restore bottomland hardwood forests on about 27,000 acres of private land. And we are restoring hydrological connections between the river and important habitats, such as at Richard K. Yancey Wildlife Management Area in Louisiana. These projects are part of our work in our Restoring America’s Greatest River Initiative.