Red River

he Red River, or sometimes the Red River of the South, is a major tributary of the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers in the southern United States of America.[2] The river was named for the red-bed country of its watershed. It is one of several rivers with that name.

“The Mexicans and Indians on the borders of Mexico are in the habit of calling any river, the waters of which have a red appearance, ‘Rio Colorado’, or Red river”, observed R.B. Marcy in 1853.[3] The Red River formed part of the US-Mexico border from the Adams-Onís Treaty (in force 1821) until the Texas Annexation or Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

The Red River is the second-largest river basin in the southern Great Plains.[4] It rises in two branches (forks) in the Texas Panhandle and flows east, where it acts as the border between the states of Texas and Oklahoma. It forms a short border between Texas and Arkansas before entering Arkansas, turning south near Fulton, Arkansas and flowing into Louisiana. The total length of the river is 1,360 miles (2,190 km), with a mean flow of over 57,000 cubic feet per second (1,600 m3/s) at the mouth. [1]


States Records [ edit | edit source ]

There may be records about the migration in these states:

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History [ edit | edit source ]

In 1806, President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the Red River Expedition to explore parts of the new lands of the Louisiana Purchase by traveling up the Red River. He said it was “in truth, next to the Missouri, the most interesting water of the Mississippi”, in a letter to William Dunbar. Having threaded the maze of bayous at the river’s confluence, and the “Great Raft” of lodged driftwood, the expedition, was stopped by the Spanish near what is now New Boston, Texas.

In 1806, Lieutenant Zebulon Pike, under orders to ascertain the source of the Red River, ascended the Arkansas River, made his way downstream on what turned out to be the Rio Grande, and was sent home by the Spanish authorities. A more successful exploration of the river’s upper reaches to both its sources was the 1852 expedition under Capt. Randolph Barnes Marcy, assisted by Brevet Capt. George B. McClellan. The latter was important as a general in the American Civil War.

In Louisiana, the area of present-day Natchitoches Parish was settled by French Creole and mixed-race Louisiana Creole people, starting before 1800. The Cane River National Heritage Area marks this area of influence, with plantations and churches founded by Louisiana Creoles. Some of the sites are designated as destinations on the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail, designed in the 21st century. For nearly 100 years after the American Civil War, some of the plantations were the center of a large African American and Creole community life, whose people lived and worked in this area for generations.

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The area along the lower Red River of Grant Parish, Louisiana, and neighboring parishes were a mixture of hill country and cotton plantations, with white planters and subsistence farmers, and numerous African American slaves working the plantations in the ante bellum years. It was an area of heated social tensions and insurgency during and after the Reconstruction era. Grant was a new parish created by the Reconstruction legislature, which was trying to increase Republican Party representation. In 1873, Grant Parish was the site of the Colfax massacre, caused by the political tension and violence arising from the disputed 1872 gubernatorial election and efforts by local whites to keep white supremacy. White militias, organized from nearby parishes, killed more than 100 freedmen, some of whom had surrendered as prisoners.

In 1874, such militias organized as the White League in Grant Parish, and other chapters were soon founded across the state. The Coushatta Massacre was attributed to the White League, which attacked Republican officeholders to run them out of office. The paramilitary groups intimidated and terrorized freedmen to keep them from the polls, and by the late 1870s, conservative Democrats had retaken political control of the state. [1]

When was the great raft in the red river

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Monday, November 10, 2014

The Great Raft of the Red River

What is known as the Great Raft was a giant log jam spanning, at its biggest, more than 160 miles, resulting in a clogging of the Red and Atchafalaya Rivers.

It is believed the Great Raft log jam began sometime around 1200 A.D., give or take a century. The Great Raft was part of the belief system of the members of the Caddo Confederacy who thought the Great Raft protected them from enemy tribes and also by making their land agriculturally productive due to the logjam caused flooding.

By the 1880s the Great Raft logjam blocked the free water flow all the way from Campti, Louisiana to the area now known as Shreveport. The Great Raft blocked settlement west of the area of Shreveport due to blocking the mouth of Twelvemile Bayou. The Great Raft raised the river levels, formed bayous and what became known as the Great Raft Lakes, including Caddo Lake, which remains a lake in the modern era.

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The Great Red River Raft acted as a dam, elevating the level of the Red River, Caddo Lake and the Big Cypress Bayou, thus permitting commercial riverboats to float to Jefferson, Texas from the Mississippi River, connecting Jefferson to towns like New Orleans and St. Louis and making Jefferson one of the busiest port towns in America.

Jefferson being a port town would come to an end with the end of the Great Raft. A riverboat captain named Henry Miller Shreve began removing the Great Raft in the 1830s, By 1835 Shreve had cleared the Great Raft up to the mouth of Twelvemile Bayou. By 1838 Shreve had managed to removed enough of the Great Raft to allow un-impeded navigation on the Red River.

Red River Raft

The Great Raft on the Red River blocked any attempt to use the river for navigation. The Raft was a logjam hundreds of years in the making that blocked any boat traffic on the Red River in northwestern Louisiana. In the mid-18th century, a riverboat captain and inventor figured out how to clear the colossal mess.

old tinted photograph of massive logjam on red river

Photograph of Great Raft on the Red River (courtesy LSU Shreveport Archives)

During Louisiana’s early history, the Red River between Shreveport and Natchitoches was clogged with a logjam so immense it was known as the ‘Great Raft’. Those logs were sometimes dozens of feet deep and even had plants and trees growing on top of them. The Red River stretches more than 1,300 miles from its headwaters in New Mexico, following the border of Oklahoma and Texas, then entering the far northwest corner of Louisiana on its way to the Mississippi River. “The Red River is kind of that western river where you have flash floods,” explains Michael Mumaugh of the Cane River Heritage area near Alexandria. “Dead trees wash out, they log jam. And then once the jam’s created, year after year more logs run into it.” Mumaugh adds.

model of paddle wheeler boat with chained log

Model of a snag boat used to clear the Great Raft

clearing the logjam

By the 1830’s the Great Raft was 175 miles long. The logjam caused the river to spill into neighboring lowlands and created several Louisiana lakes that remain today. Those lakes include Lake Bistineau southeast of Shreveport, which is now a Louisiana State Park. Steamboat captain and inventor Henry Shreve came up with a solution, a ‘snag boat’. There are photographs and a model of the Shreve-designed boat at the J. Bennett Johnston Waterway Regional Visitors Center in downtown Shreveport. “He would attach a chain to one of the logs and crews of people would cut the branches and roots off anything that would snag,” explained Joseph Holoubek of the Corps of Engineers. The work was mostly done by hand. Holoubek added, “They started in 1833 and they finished here in Shreveport in 1838.”

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curve in red river lined by trees

View of Red River from high bluff at Grand Ecore, LA

The Cane River National Heritage Visitors Center at Grand Ecore offers a high overlook of the Red River. The center is 75 miles southeast of Shreveport. Museum manager Michael Mumaugh explains that the work by Shreve, “does open up navigable waterway all the way to what becomes Shreveport and beyond,” into eastern Texas and southern Arkansas.

black and white portrait of Henry Shreve

Captain Henry Shreve engineered clearing of Great Red River Raft (courtesy National Portrait Gallery)

Visitors to the Grand Ecore center can picnic atop the high river bluff. Both Union and Confederate forces used the location during the Civil War. “Forts are built nearby here on top of the cliff,” Mumaugh tells me. “It controls a bend in the river which would slow any boat traffic coming up or down.”

picnic table outside visitors center

Picnic tables offer visitors a panoramic view of the Red River at Grand Ecore Visitors Center

the red river today

Congress ignored Shreve’s recommendation to maintain the cleared river channel. A second raft formed, which forced a second clearing in the 1870’s. Today, the Army Corps of Engineers operates a series of four locks and dams on the Red River.

water flowing through a dam on the red river

Water flows through a dam on the Red River south of Shreveport, LA

Regular dredging keeps the river channel at a depth of nine feet by 200 feet wide. That allows barge traffic to navigate the waterway that was once unusable due to the Great Red River Raft.

pipe for river dredge spews water in red river

River dredge at work on the Red River

the red river raft featured on tv

steel train bridge across red river at shreveport

Watch this Heart of Louisiana TV feature on the Great Red River Raft

Railroad and highway bridges cross the Red River between Shreveport and Bossier City, LA

Getting there

The J. Bennett Johnston Waterway Regional Center is located near the Red River in downtown Shreveport. 700 Clyde Fant Parkway, Shreveport, LA. Phone: (318) 677-2673.

The Grand Ecore Visitor Center is located on the Red River north of Natchitoches, LA. 106 Tauzin Island Road Natchitoches, LA. Phone: (318) 354-8770.




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