Fifty years ago when they closed the spillway gates and Lake D’Arbonne came to life, there was one thing that it seemed like everybody did: bought a boat!
“I can remember it like yesterday,” Elzie Culpepper, a Tiger Bend resident, said. “It was all trees then. You couldn’t even see across the most narrow part of the lake for all the trees. But everybody bought a boat. You could go out there just about anywhere and catch big bream and bass. It was so thick that the next year, they lowered the lake way down and brought in big crusher machines and drove through some of the standing timber. I can remember watching them just knock it down clearing out some trails so fishermen could get out in there. It was unbelievable.”
So was the fishing, and it stayed that way for years, Culpepper said. And every time boat manufacturers came out with bigger and faster models, one of the first places you’d see them was on Lake D’Arbonne.
That was also back before the boat lanes on the lake. In those days, if you wanted to “run” up and down the lake, you had to follow the openings between the giant cypress trees that stood tall along the banks of the old creeks. Even though the lake was flooded, it was pretty easy to see where the winding old channels went. Today, most of the big old cypress are gone, but there are plenty of boat runs marked by posts.
Another interesting story Culpepper remembered was before the spillway was closed, they had an opening in it where you could walk right through from where the lake was to below the spillway.
“That was something,” he said. “If you weren’t there back in those days, you couldn’t even imagine what it looked like compared to today.”