Hello Mississippi River, Nice to Finally Meet You

The Boats

The Mississippi River is music at its most subtle. Wandering the river front, I soon fell into its seductive rhythm; the syncopated quarter note of the ferry, the half note of the steamboat, the thrum of the barges, the long whole note of the cruise ships. And darting through it all is the small, orange Coast Guard patrol boat. Other ships join in the rhythm, too, adding a nice counter to the regular beat. Together with the bull horns and splashing water, with the excited voice of tourists, with the laughing gulls and the silent pauses, the Mississippi River plays a lively river song.

Algiers Ferry

Down By the River; Boats No. 1; The Algiers Ferry. Free to ride, it ferries people and cars across the river.

Natchez Steamboat

Down by the River; Boats No. 2; I don't know much about the workings of the steamboat, but it really seemed to me like the captain pumped the steam just for tourists.


Down By the River; Boats No. 3; The barge load is the slab of rocks and gravel in the foreground. Some barges will maneuver up to nine of these (that I saw). I'm sure they can manage more. I don't know what kind of ship that is in the background but I like it.

Coast Guard

Down By the River; Boats No. 4; Coast Guard patrol boat

The Gulls

If the comings and goings of the river boats is the beat, the call of the gulls belongs to the tune. I have heard the term laughing gulls but until New Orleans I had never heard one, and this is coming from a gal who was born and raised in Utah where the seagull is the State bird!

I have a like/hate relationship with gulls. I say like instead of love because when you live your life dodging the damn things and yet have to respect them as your State bird, it makes it difficult to love them. In Utah, I have had my more-than-fair share of poop-bombing seagulls messing my hair and face. Over time, I learned to dodge and duck to avoid them. I learned to NEVER let them get above me, and if there was a flock taking off anywhere near, it was inevitable that some white grossness plopped down on or near me. Utah gulls are not nice gulls. I think it’s because they know they’re privileged. I really believe they have bombing competitions.

Gulls Flying

Down By the River; Gulls No. 1

So, here I am on the Mississippi River, tentatively side-stepping the gulls and horrified to see my fellow tourists walking calmly through them. GET OUT OF THE WAY! THEY’LL BOMB YOU! I yell in my head. The New Orleans gulls are gutsy, flying in and around the people. The Utah gulls stayed well above as they bombed, but the New Orleans gulls fly right at you. I duck and dodge all over the place. But I’m the only one ducking and dodging. And I notice that no one yells “Ew, gross” or looks down at their shoulders in disgust. No one wipes off their shoes or runs their fingers through their hair in surprise. What manner of voodoo is this? Do the New Orleans gulls hypnotize their prey so they don’t know they are covered in sticky droppings?

As I dodge the gulls, I decide I want a photo of one in flight UP CLOSE. I am not a nature photographer, but there are so many gulls that I most assuredly will get a decent photo. Right? Not if you keep ducking and dodging my inner voice says. Sigh. Ok. So I take a stance. I stake out a gull, and it sees me.

Hold steady, Dezra, I tell myself as the gull swings around to dive at me. I stagger back with one foot, catching my balance. The gull comes at me. My ducking instincts kick in and I’m screaming, HOLD STEADY, HOLD STEADY. Then the gull eyes me just as I get the shot. It suddenly banks right, and I hear it laughing as it returns to its flock.

Diving Gull

Down By the River; Gulls No. 2; Insouciant scoundrel

After that I no longer fear the gulls. They aren’t out to get me, or anyone else, for that matter. They are perfectly content on the shores of the Mississippi River doing whatever it is that gulls do. Now that I think about it, those Utah gulls are landlocked and probably frustrated about the lack of decent water. No wonder they take to bombing people.

Although I took many photos of the bird in flight, only the one turned out. Here are a few more photos of the gulls:

Two Gulls on a Rail

Down By the River; Gulls No. 3

Gulls on Wharf

Down By the River; Gulls No. 4

Gulls in the Grass

Down By the River; Gulls No. 5 Don't they look like the cutest little gulls dressed up in business suits holding a meeting on the lawn?

By the way, if you’re wondering why there aren’t more people (tourists), I suspect it’s because a major event just happened over the weekend and most people (tourists) left when it was over. It’s also the weekday; most likely Monday since that’s when I took photos of the gulls. And, New Orleans has so much to see and do that the remaining people are swallowed up in other activities. At least, that’s my guess. But that’s ok with me because I can relax and get to know the Mississippi River much more personally. Hello Mississippi River. Nice to finally meet you.


About Dezra Despain

Life is full of stories waiting to be revealed.

Posted on April 27, 2012, in A New Orleans Experience and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Great review of the Mississippi’s music. And the verse about the seagulls is a hoot!!!

  2. Nice. Like the ‘ Insouciant scoundrel’! Near here the seagulls in Caernarfon can be a problem – they have been known to swoop down and steal sandwiches from the hands of the unwary. One enterprising landlord was leasing birds of prey to guard his premises so that those having food outside could dine in peace. Don’t know how successful this was though.

    • The Utah gulls were very similar, though they were more scavengers in parking lots and garbage cans than snatchers. I didn’t notice any gulls in NOLA making off with food from people, though I did see a sign posted about not feeding the birds. A lot of the restaurants on the water front have an outside component. I didn’t notice any problems. But I wasn’t there all that long and the tourists were sparse. Maybe when more people are there a problem may exist. Otherwise, these birds were very polite (unless they dove at you for fun….)

  3. Love your developing photojournal, Dezra. Your description of the counterpoints and harmonies of the rhythms and voices of the denizens of the river are very evocative. And your photo of the diving gull is great!

  4. Great series of images. You did a fantastic job capturing the gulls.

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