Atchafalaya Houseboat

Sun, 08/31/2008 - 10:30pm

Gwen Roland, pictured on the deck of her houseboat at sunrise.

C.C. Lockwood

Atchafalaya Houseboat, airing Sunday, August 31 at 10:30 p.m. on WXXI-TV 21 (cable 11) and WXXI-HD (cable 1011 and DT 21.1), is based on the experiences of writer Gwen Carpenter Roland and her childhood friend and companion, Calvin Voisin, who left civilization in the turmoil of the early 1970s to return to the simple, quiet lifestyle of their great-grandparents in the vast, unspoiled beauty of the nation’s largest river swamp, Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Basin. Without power tools or construction experience, the pair designed and built a floating home on which they lived a rich life in a remote, sleepy bayou for nearly a decade.

In Atchafalaya Houseboat, Roland eloquently recounts the time they spent catching and growing their own food, sewing clothes, trading, swapping stories about a time gone by, and growing up together.

During their journey, Roland and Voisin befriended a small community of “old swampers” and a young photographer named C.C. Lockwood, who shared their love of the basin’s endangered beauty and unique lifestyle. Lockwood’s stunning photographs of the Atchafalaya, featuring Roland and Voisin going about their daily routine, were published in National Geographic magazine in 1978, bringing unexpected fame to the pair and attention to the imperiled basin. Nearly 30 years later, after the pair had long since parted, one of Lockwood’s photographs was featured in a National Geographic collector’s edition, entitled the 100 Best Pictures Unpublished, renewing interest in their unique experiences.

This engaging documentary takes viewers on a tour of one of America’s most remote natural treasures to experience the Atchafalaya Basin’s breathtaking beauty, to experience an extinct American culture. The program prominently features the photographs of now renowned photographer C.C. Lockwood and the graceful storytelling of the critically acclaimed writer Roland to bring this charming story to life for a new generation.