The most important piece of geography that any visitor to New Orleans must learn is that the Mississippi is the highest point in the city. All land moving away from the river begins to descend below sea level. Before a settlement established in New Orleans, the river would flood each spring. As it receded, silt deposited and eventually created raised banks. This natural deposit formed the basis of the first levees, or flood defences, shown here reinforced with imported stone on the water side (above) and covered in grass on the town side (. The old town is set back from the riverfront, and the main Jackson square is already several feet lower than the waterside promenade. An additional flood defence wall separates the car park (below) from Jackson square.
With its strategic position at the frontier of the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico, the history of New Orleans is centred on its port activities. An automated container port has replaced the scores of smaller vessels that once moored in the city. Today, Steamboat Natchez plies for tourist trade with daily jazz cruises. Before the ship paddles off, the engines provide power for a steam calliope, an automated musical instrument similar to a barrel organ, that pipes music across the waterfront. Before final departure, the steam whistle shrills over the Crescent City, and another voyage begins.
Next post, a trip to Algiers.