Archive for July, 2010

From the Haynesville Shale of northwest Louisiana to the famous offshore platforms and hundreds if not thousands of wells in between, oil and gas exploration is synonymous with the Pelican state. In the early 1900’s the Monroe Gas Field was one of the largest known fields in the world at that time. As we all know with the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico sometimes things don’t go as we expected.All of this got me to thinking about the history of oil and gas exploration within the Sicily Island Hills, not just the wildlife management area.

Sonris

SONRIS Oil and Gas Wells

Click on the above map to enlarge it. Click on your browsers back button to return to this page. There are several P&A, that is plugged and abandoned, oil and gas wells within the Sicily Island Hills including one oil and gas field well pit. This information was retrieved from the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources SONRIS web page. The locations seem by my observation to trend parallel with, but well north and south of Big Creek. That is to say the trend is in a southwest-northeast direction. Additionally, the wells appear to be spread out, rather than concentrated in one area. There are, according to Lowery Moak the biologist in charge of Sicily Island Hills WMA, no active wells within the Sicily Island Hills WMA.

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When I refer to the Sicily Island Hills I am applying that term to include the group of hills bound by the Boeuf River, Ouachita River, plus state highways LA 8, LA 913 and LA 915 (go to my Geography page for a map that clearly and vividly shows this feature). The Sicily Island Hills may mean to some the Sicily Island Hills Wildlife Management Area(wma). The state wildlife management area encompasses 7524.07 acres which is just a portion of the entire Sicily Island Hills complex. Many of my posts are about the wma but some are about the Sicily Island Hills area.

Within the Sicily Island Hills there are a few private businesses and homes in addition to hunting clubs outside the boundary of the wma. So when I refer to the Sicily Island Hills I am referring to the entire complex of hills not just the wildlife management area.

The view from the former forest lookout tower in the Sicily Island Hills, formally known as the Leland Tower, must have been spectacular. From that unique vantage point a 360 degree view would have given the observer an unparalleled vista of the Chalk Hills to the west, the Ouachita Hills to the northwest, Macon Ridge to the northeast and the Mississippi Alluvial Plain to the northern, eastern,  and southern horizons. It would not surprise me if the paper mill in West Monroe were visible on a clear day.

As with most lookout towers, the Leland Tower having outlived it usefulness was eliminated in the late summer of 1980. According to documents I kindly received from the LDA&F Office of Forestry, perched on a northern portion of the Sicily Island Hills, the Leland Tower was 22 feet square at its base, and 110 feet tall from its base to the top of the cab. Photos of the footings of the tower are on my Photos/Map page.

According to Mrs.Bobbie Black a retired Office of Forestry District 3 employee of the former Olla office, the tower ladder was dangerous and she had difficulty staffing the tower due to the angst it caused the tower employees. This problem was addressed in letters to and from the Louisiana Forestry Commission. In a April 2,1958 letter from the Catahoula Parish Police Jury to the Louisiana Forestry Commission it was requested that the commission eliminate the “old style perpendicular ladder” as it was a hazard. The commission replied in a letter dated April 15, 1958 that the commission acknowledged the police jury’s resolution and “”planned to make safety alterations on this tower during the coming maintenance season after activation of our steel rigger crew”.

I spoke July 19th with Mr. Eddie Roy Posey who worked at the Aimwell tower and for the Office of Forestry from about 1967-1986. He expressed his trepidation about climbing the Leland tower because as he described it, ” it was like climbing straight up an oil derrick”. Working the towers also meant taking readings of humidity, rainfall and temperature on a daily basis to determine the fire danger. In addition, if fires broke out workers might man the tower all day, fight the fires into the night and then report back in for duty at the tower the next morning.

Fonder memories were found to be enjoyed at other times by families of employees living in the area. The son of Leland tower employee J.D Weeks recounted memories of Easter egg hunts in the area of the tower.

Although this is not a complete list, other men with connections to the Leland tower include John H. Greene, Ira Guice, Lee Patton and Clarence Wagner.

More information including hopefully photographs soon to follow.

My thanks to Messrs. Sam Irwin, David Batson, and many other Louisiana Department of Forestry employees for their research on this project.