Louisiana Falls Off The Map

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BAYOU PETIT CAILLOU, La.—Just before sunset on a humid weekday, Vic and Bebe McElroy, a couple in their 60s, are cruising through one of the bayous south of New Orleans in their skiff, Fish Dancer. Rickety, oil-stained boats, full of burlap sacks stuffed with oysters, are docking at the Coco Marina in Cocodrie as Fish Dancer passes. Bayou Petit Caillou, the waterway the McElroys use almost more than paved roads, flows gently into an open bay and then the Gulf.

Bebe tells Vic to slow the boat so she can recount a story. “We were runnin’ in front of the islands one day, fishin’, and it was beautiful—it was gorgeous,” she recalls. It looked like the boat was in open water. Then she noticed something odd. “I said, ‘Honey, look at those birds—they’re walking on water.’ ” Realizing the birds must be standing in very shallow water, she told Vic to make sure they didn’t get stuck. But it was too late: The skiff’s hull was lodged in what not long ago had been land but was now mud just below the surface, out of sight.

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