Chaplin’s Lake, which runs along South Jefferson Street on the Northwestern State campus, has been the target of recent cleanup. The lake was dredged earlier this year, and a new water and sediment filtration system was set up in coordination with the city.
This is not the first time the lake has been dredged; Gil Gilson, capital outlay and special projects coordinator at NSU, said the lake has been dredged three times in the past 20 years.
The new treatment practice started in January 2018, according to a Natchitoches Parish Journal article, removed sludge from the lake. Gilson said the city removed over 6,000 cubic yards of the silt from the bottom of Chaplin’s Lake.
“The new process will insure that no additional silt will be introduced into the lake in the future, so that future dredging of Chaplin will not be needed,” he said.
The treatment was made possible by a $2 million loan from the Louisiana Department of Health in 2015 aimed at improving the city’s drinking water system. Natchitoches Mayor Lee Posey specifically mentioned the lake when thanking the department for the loan.
“The loan will not only help with infrastructure but will more importantly help our local university…” Posey said. “The water plant is located next to NSU, and the water runs into Chaplin Lake. New clarifier systems will stop sludge build-up and help sustain the beauty of NSU.”
The city water treatment center, which can be seen from the South Jefferson Street waterfront, regularly puts water that runs into the lake through what Gilson said is “an intensive treatment process” that removes contaminants.
A large water press is used to remove sediment from the water, and then the clean water is reintroduced into Chaplin’s Lake. The sediment and water are tested to make sure state standards are met.
The center can additionally control how much water is reintroduced to manage the standard level of the lake.
Chaplin’s Lake was once part of the Red River, as was Cane River Lake. When the Red River was partitioned off to create Cane River Lake, the area on campus connected with the Cane was sectioned off again, thus creating Chaplin’s Lake.
The lake itself is used for recreational sports such as Demon Crew and fishing and for the annual Dragon Boat Races. The area also includes a walking trail along the lake maintained by The Rapides Foundation, a philanthropy with the goal to “improve the health status in Central Louisiana.”
Gilson spoke about the lake in terms of its cleanup, but also in terms of its aesthetic qualities.
“Very few universities have such area that can be utilized that is so beautiful and also located on our campus,” he said.
The walking trail by Chaplin’s Lake is open to all. It is not permitted, however, to swim in the lake. Article IV, Section 3.4 of the Student Code of Conduct prohibits swimming or wading “except in authorized areas during authorized times.”