Maybeck County – Circa: Now
I did some research on the kind of geography that I want to see in Maybeck County. As I talked about last time, I knew I wanted there to be a swamp, and a river. To me, that said southern United States, but I didn’t want to assume.
I looked up information on swamps, bogs, and bayous in general, and also in America. My digging led me to the term “oxbow lake.” Turns out, oxbow lakes are really cool.
Big rivers tend to meander. They curve back and forth across the landscape. When the river finds an easier path to flow through, it can cut off one of those meanders. An entire curve of what was once river becomes a lake. Some of those lakes stay awesome. There’s one in Louisiana that has “remarkably clear” water. It’s remarkable because there’s no outflow from these lakes. They’re totally cut off.
A decent number of oxbow lakes turn into swamps or bogs. Enter: Breakback Swamp.
The Flood of 1939
Grimsbury and Oldtown had both been dockside shiping towns, situated on the Maybeck River. In 1939, the Maybeck flooded. It broke over one of its eastern isthmi, and flowed across a new channel, cutting the towns off. When the floodwaters receded, Grimsbury and Oldtown were on most of an island, with the Maybeck river to the east now, and a new oxbow lake to the west.
The towns, in a rare show of unity, tried to engineer channels back to the river to reestablish its previous course, but they were unsuccessful. Lack of infrastructure and political infighting eventually led to the project being abandoned. The difficulty of the unsuccessful labor gave the now-stagnating lake its name: Breakback.
The dock works on the Breakback swamp were moved or abandoned. The space between the towns became largely abandoned. It wasn’t until the early 1970s that a small population boom gave rise to the Breakback Trailer Park, making a small population center between the two towns.
As you can see, I updated the relational/spatial map of the area to take the swamp into account. The placement of some of the locations still isn’t quite right, but the feel of the place is there for me. I may end up moving to some kind of map-making software sooner rather than later. The map above is good for general relationships. It will probably be time for more specific placement of locations and geography soon, though.
I mentioned on Twitter that I’ve never done this level of research for a project before. Even for Iron Edda, I got a good overview of Norse myth, but I didn’t really dive deep. I want Maybeck County to resonate as real. The work I’m doing now will help that happen. This project is developing along lines that are new for me, and it’s really exciting.
The best part of this for is that every decision I make gives rise to more questions. Questions are what’s driving this project. I want to find out more about this place. I want to get answers to the things that interest me. As I do that, Maybeck County will continue to grow and become more realized. That’s an awesome process and an amazing feeling.