“I can forsee a lake that will offer everything — camp sites for families, fishing, water sports, swimming,” Hanna wrote. “It’ll be the biggest thing that ever happened to Union Parish and a definite boon to the Monroe Area,” Sam Hanna wrote. Yes. Yes. And Yes.
At the time D’Arbonne was planned, the lake would have been the largest man-made lake project in the south. But that honor went to another huge reservoir that nobody has been able to top — Toledo Bend on the Louisiana – Texas border.
Just a month before Hanna penned his “Haven in the Hills” article, thousands of people gathered on October 5, 1961 with groundbreaking ceremonies officially launching the $60,000,000 Toledo Bend dam and reservoir project. That lake would eventually encompass more than 190,000 acres. Because of its size, it took a bit longer to complete. The official dedication of Toledo Bend was held Saturday morning, October 11, 1969, years after fishermen at D’Arbonne were already catching fish, sitting on the decks overlooking the lake and having fish frys galore here.
In fact, the Toledo Bend project was so massive, that it took some fast work in the legislature to keep funding for D’Arbonne on track, even thought it was a fraction of the cost of the big Bend. Clever legislative maneuvers by concerned lawmakers earmarked $2 1/2 million dollars in the Public Works budget, enabling the administration of Gov. Jimmie H. Davis to continue work.
And her is something that should come as no surprise to lake residents today: The article pointed out that inclement weather brought on backwater in the lake too early, delaying the work. Imagine that, the lake flooded even before it was a lake… too quickly, it seems, delaying work on the very lake itself. Only at Lake D’Arbonne!
Hanna ended his one-pager as only he could and we end this report with his words, speaking of the lake’s first commisioners :
“Theirs was the job to help take a pipedream and turn it into a reality. Although built by the hand of man, D’Arbonne Bayou Lake, once completed, will be as real as the tall pines that surround it, as productive as the bayou that feeds it, and as important as the effort that built it. D’Arbonne, in an era of great outdoor potential, is every bit realistic. It’s like industry without smokestacks.”
Cool. Thanks, Mr. Hanna, for telling this story so we could repeat it some 50+ years later.