Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Engineering and Applied Science


Earth and Environmental Sciences

Major Professor

Kulp, Mark

Second Advisor

Miner, Michael

Third Advisor

McCorquodale, J. Alex

Fourth Advisor

Georgiou, Ioannis

Fifth Advisor

Easterly, Ernest


In Louisiana, the beds of natural lakes are owned by the state. The locations of property boundary lines separating state property from private lands have usually been set by determining the levels of natural monuments known as ordinary high water marks. The term is confusing and subjective, leading to controversy in reference to its determination. Catahoula Lake in central Louisiana was chosen as a study site because of its large size, its 20-foot variation in water levels, and its low-relief perimeter. Geology, geomorphology, hydrology, archaeology, vegetation, dendrochronology and dendrohydrology of the ancient cypress fringe, nineteenth century land survey records, historical records, and time-series statistics were applied to determine the elevation range of ordinary high water. Research suggests that the level of the ordinary high water natural monument used universally in Louisiana to define lake boundaries is not the correct natural monument. This research suggests that, for example, the natural monument that defines the Catahoula Lake boundary is not a vertical monument, but rather an areal monument that was originally recognized by nineteenth century U.S. government surveyors and embedded in the evidence extracted from their original field notes. The solution coincides with the boundaries of regional land patents and offers a consistent solution to determining the boundaries of thousands of acres of disputed lands. The procedure is applicable to other lake and swamp boundaries in Louisiana and other states.


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