Our Lady of Blind River
Little chapel tucked in South Louisiana swamp has welcomed visitors since 1980s
A ride along the winding Blind River offers a scenic view of one of the state’s iconic cypress swamps. The small river south of Gonzales, La., is lined with moss-draped cypresses and small fishing camps.
But around one bend of the river is a tiny cypress-shingled building with a sign above the door reading “Our Lady of Blind River.”
This chapel has stood watch over the lazy river since being built in the 1980s by Bobby Deroche and a group of friends after Bobby’s wife Martha began having visions of Jesus Christ praying at a rock. Our Lady of Blind River is sided with more than 2,000 hand-made cypress shingles and it topped with a shingled steeple. Inside, Mary’s altar dominates, with a brightly painted icon to Virgin Mary that depicts the saint stepping on a snake. The statue sits on a massive, hand-carved cypress trunk.
Several rows of pews provide visitors with seating, and the front of the chapel is decorated with iconography and statues depicting Jesus and Mary. There also is a small table with prayer candles.
About 400 people — many watching in boats near the small dock — were present when Our Lady of Blind River was blessed by a priest on Aug. 23, 1983.
The Deroches lived on the river right beside the chapel, and Mary Deroche greeted visitors until her death in 2013. She provided the history of Our Lady of Blind River, and gave out finger rosaries and scapula pendants to everyone who stopped to spend time in prayer and meditation.
While the Deroches have passed away, the chapel remains open and their family uses donations from visitors to make finger rosaries and scapula pendants available to those who make the trip.
And, while accessible only by boat, Our Lady of Blind River still attracts hundreds of visitors each year. The chapel even has its own Facebook page.