The Geological Formation of the Metairie-Gentilly Ridges

Stop 1 of 6 on the Bayou St. John tour

The winding nature of the Mississippi not only gave New Orleans its nickname: the Crescent City but also created the land you are standing on today.

As the Mississippi River flows to the Gulf of Mexico it brings sediment and silt with it, depositing them along the banks of the river and creating new land masses. Before the US Army Corps of Engineers took control of the river to allow for the safe passage of ships, the Mississippi River's path would occasionally change while winding its way towards the Gulf, creating various bends and curves. Each time the river flooded it deposited extra earth, raising the surrounding land. The banks of the river retained the most land, eventually becoming higher than the surrounding plains.

The changing pathway of the river also causes the development of distributaries, which are simply branches of a river that flow away from the mainstream. According to Edna B. Freiberg, noted Bayou St. John historian, the last main distributary of the Mississippi River in this area was cut off from the present river between approximately 600 B.C. and 1000 A.D. The banks of this distributary created the Metairie-Gentilly Ridge, where you are currently standing. This high land became the home of various native tribes who were the first inhabitants of this region.