The southernmost point of the Mississippi River Delta. April 18, 2016. PlanetScope image ©2016 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0.

From the Firehose: Exploring Land’s End in Louisiana

From New Orleans, take Highway 23 south. You’ll follow the Mississippi River into the marshy river delta. After 75 miles of swamp land, you’ll reach the small town of Venice, Louisiana, and see a sign that reads “You have reached the southernmost point in Louisiana. Gateway to the Gulf.”

But there’s more of Louisiana to see. If you hop in a boat, you can motor further south into the delta— deep into the “birdfoot”, where the Mississippi separates into a web of branching channels. The largest of these channels is Southwest Pass. It’s the delta’s busiest shipping channel.

Here’s a look at Southwest Pass from space:

A look at Southwest Pass in it’s entirety via the Planet Platform. April 18, 2016. PlanetScope images ©2016 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0

Now let’s zoom in. Check out the southernmost point in the river delta:

A container ship travels up river. April 18, 2016. PlanetScope image ©2016 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0

Here, at the end of North America’s largest drainage system, silt creates a beautiful pattern as it spills from the channel’s mouth into the open gulf. We also see patterns indicative of industry. Do you see the artificial channels cut into the channel’s mouth? They shelter a sea plane port. And that large, artificial breakwater protects a pilot station and rows of beacon lights designed to guide container ships into the channel.

Southwest Pass is unique—shaped through the ages by natural and manmade processes. Over the last century, a lot has changed in the birdfoot; and satellite imagery has been a vital tool in the effort to monitor and measure these changes. With our imaging constellation poised to increase in size, we’ll collect frequent satellite imagery, making it easier for us to monitor large- and small-scale changes in this economically and ecologically important area.

Learn more about Planet’s monitoring constellation.