As you scan the area you can see why this settlement is called Oak Grove. French settlers called these coastal woods cheniers. The word means oak place, so-called because live oak is the predominant tree here. These oaks were used by the Native Americans for their acorns as a food source and by early government officials for their strong wood which were useful in making hulls for boats and ships. Over time Cheniers came to refer to not just the trees, but to the sandy ancient beach ridges formed by wave action, offshore currents, and even the influence of the Mississippi River. Over time, these former beaches have become ridges isolated from the current beach by stretches of marshlands. This particular stranded beach ridge is six miles from the Gulf of Mexico. Cheniers are a rare feature of the northern coastline of the Gulf of Mexico, and mostly found here along the Louisiana coast.  The southwest Louisiana Chenier Plain is one of only three major chenier plains in the world. Cheniers are generally only 15 feet or less above sea level, but this critical extra height makes it dry enough for homes and roads. These ridges also provide protection from storms to more inland areas as they hold soil in place, block salt water from entering freshwater marshes, reduce tidal surges, and calm wave and wind energy. Notice how the winds off the Gulf have shaped many of the trees with their trunks bent and canopies swept back from the sea--creating wind sculptures. If you drive east on highway 82 toward the Rockefeller Refuge you will experience the chenier habitat up-close as you will be driving on, and through, a chenier.