Gulf Coast Deserted for July Fourth Weekend

On July Fourth weekend, the entire Gulf of Mexico should look like, in the words of Brenda Boggs, "heaven."

Boggs caught redfish and speckled trout on Bay Rambo, one of Louisiana's few fishing areas reopened since the oil crisis began.

The biggest holiday weekend means Gulf coast beaches ought to be packed, but that's not the case this year. They're deserted, except for cleanup crews, CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann reports.

Special Section: Disaster in the Gulf

"We weren't sure if we would be able to fish," said Boggs. "I really would like to be able to see a lot more people being able to."

Other waters should be just as ideal as Bay Rambo for fishing on Independence Day. There's no sign of oil but not a boat in sight either. Oil worries have closed one-third of all federal waters in the Gulf. Off Louisiana, that's everything east of the Mississippi River.

Adm. Paul Zukunft is the Coast Guard's new point man for the BP spill. On Saturday, he toured toured the zone where "A Whale," boasted to be the world's largest skimmer, was being tested.

"Right now, the Coast Guard is really focused on the removal aspect of this operation," Zukunft said.

In Gulf Breeze, Fla., Lisa Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, walked along oiled beaches and said she wouldn't go in the water.

"They're getting the largest pieces and leaving a lot of the smaller pieces that I don't know if you can ever get," Jackson said.

Even rumors of oil chase away tourists. In Destin, Fla., cancellations have cost the Henderson Park Inn $200,000 and general manager Ryan Olen his peace of mind.

"I've got a wife, an 18-month old son and another kid on the way," said Olen. "It's a scary feeling."

It's a different Fourth in the Gulf when fishing boats want more company.

"There could be tons of boats around," said Boggs. "I'm happy today, but I'm sad about the situation in general."

Cleanup crews lost most of the last three days due to bad weather and Hurricane Alex, but sunny skies and Louisiana's broiling summer temperatures are in the forecast for Sunday.

  • Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann was named CBS News Transportation correspondent in August 2011. He has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001, and is based in the Atlanta bureau.