Atchafalaya Houseboat

Atchafalaya Houseboat

My Years in the Louisiana Swamp

Book - 2006
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In the early 1970s, two idealistic young people -- Gwen Carpenter Roland and Calvin Voisin -- decided to leave civilization and re-create the vanished simple life of their great-grandparents in the heart of Louisiana's million-acre Atchafalaya River Basin Swamp. Armed with a box of crayons and a book called How to Build Your Home in the Woods, they drew up plans to recycle a slave-built structure into a houseboat. Without power tools or building experience they constructed a floating dwelling complete with a brick fireplace. Towed deep into the sleepy waters of Bloody Bayou, it was their home for eight years. This is the tale of the not-so-simple life they made together -- days spent fishing, trading, making wine, growing food, and growing up -- told by Gwen with grace, economy, and eloquence.

Not long after they took up swamp living, Gwen and Calvin met a young photographer named C. C. Lockwood, who shared their "back to the earth" values. His photographs of the couple going about their daily routine were published in National Geographic magazine, bringing them unexpected fame. More than a quarter of a century later, after Gwen and Calvin had long since parted, one of Lockwood's photos of them appeared in a National Geographic collector's edition entitled 100 Best Pictures Unpublished -- and kindled the interest of a new generation.

With quiet wisdom, Gwen recounts her eight-year voyage of discovery -- about swamp life, wildlife, and herself. A keen observer of both the natural world and the ways of human beings, she transports readers to an unfamiliar and exotic place.

Publisher: Baton Rouge : Louisiana State University Press, 2006.
ISBN: 9780807130896
Branch Call Number: La 976.342 Rol
Characteristics: 161 p. : ill ; 19cm.


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Feb 20, 2013

I was surprised when I first picked up the book; it is a small book – in physical size and number of pages (160).

For the amount of time they spent living on the boat there was not as much detail as I expected. I wanted more description of their observations of nature and wildlife out on the river and swamp. But the short notes, maybe closer to an elegant prose, that were written were soft, tender, and very peaceful (almost poetic). They were more like glimpses into the couple’s nearly decade-long time on the houseboat – their gardening, chickens, and people they visited who lived in the area – rather than descriptions of their experiences.

The book also includes pictures of them, their houseboat, and a couple of the characters who lived in the area and are mentioned in her reflections.


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