Update: Black Bayou Lake has closed. The SLurls have therefore been removed from this article.
Jade Koltai and Serene Footman have a reputation for designing stunning regions (see my reviews of Furillen, Khodovarikha, La Digue du Braek and Isle of May to give you an idea, if you’re unfamiliar with their past work). Their designs are generally inspired by locations to be found in the physical world, and are always a stunning and photogenic mix of beauty, presentation and personal interpretation that are a must-see.
Such is the case with their latest offering, Black Bayou Lake, which recently opened in October. We were alerted to it by friend and photographer AJ (AnyaJurelle). “It’s beautiful!” AJ informed me via IM. “Really well put together!” And she’s not at all wrong.
As is always the way with Serene and Jade, they not only design a region – they provide extensive background information on their inspiration and thoughts on the design through the Furillen website. Doing so adds considerable depth to their designs, and makes visiting any of their regions both visually informative and stimulating in the way they can reveal far off places to us. This is once again the case with this region.
Black Bayou Lake is located in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana. The lake is part of an 800 acre nature reserve which seethes with wildlife: there are many species of bird, insect, reptile and fish, along with a variety of trees such as cherrybark oak, cedar elm, ash, hickories, willow oak, shortleaf pine, loblolly pine, mockernut hickory and post oak. It’s a stunning place, which attracted us because we had not yet tried designing a sim that consists mainly of water.
– Serene Footman describing the inspiration behind Black Bayou Lake in Second Life
Serene notes that not only is the lake alive with wildlife and flora, it can also – thanks to the may denuded trees found in its waters – be a somewhat creepy place. All of this is perfectly captured in the region design, which casts the lake under a darkening, cloud-laden sky, just as the mist is rising through the tall grass and reeds. It’s a perfect look and feel for the time of year, but such is the design of the region it is perfect for photographing under a broad range of environment settings, and I opted to go with a little more daylight with the images here.
To try to describe this raw beauty of this location would be pointless; it has to be seen to be appreciated, such is the love and care with which it has been designed and everything within it has been curated to present a genuinely immersive setting that carries the visitor into the heart of the Louisiana swamplands, revealing both their natural and man-made beauty whilst incorporating many touches we all tend to associate with bayou life, courtesy of natural history programmes and fictional films.
The natural beauty is fully evident in the mix of and water in this wetland. Trees and mangroves rise from the water and cling to the more solid grassland areas, the tall grass mixing with reeds along the water’s edge to make is difficult in places to discern where dry ends and wet begins. Birds and water fowl can be seen and heard throughout (it’s absolutely essential a visit has local sounds enabled!), while alligators patrol the waters as a warning to would-be waders.
The man-made beauty comes in the ramshackle nature of the buildings to be found scattered across the land. Run-down, some with once-bright paint now dried and fading with the passage of time, they are both a reminder of the poverty that can be found within the bayou and the pride those living there can take in their lifestyle and ways: airboats, also looking a little aged, sit with engines in pristine working order and fish dry outdoors in a sign of independent living.
One of the cabins also encompasses the mystique of the bayou so beloved of fiction. Within its walls are the paraphernalia of the occult: a pentagram marked on the floor, voodoo dolls suspended from the sealed, tarot cards on (or dancing over) a table where crystal ball sits… It’s a place hidden behind shrubs among the gnarled fingers of tress pointing to the sky, hiding but nevertheless waiting to be found.
A major feature within the physical Black Bayou Lake, as Serene notes in his blog post, is a raised walkway that allows people to venture out over the lake. This has a distinctive inverted V section rising above the surroundings, and Jade and Serene have included their own version of the board walk, complete with its unusual V section as a part of this design.
Wonderfully atmospheric, with careful attention to detail and plenty to discover and photograph, Black Bayou Lake is another visual feast from Serene and Jade. It will, however only be around for a short time – so if you are planning an excursion, do not leave it too long before going.