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Poems have been written, and songs have been composed and sung by hearts, that have been stirred by this unique river... and, stories and legends have been told and passed down for generations about the life and times along the OUACHITA.

The history of the OUACHITA is as unique and diverse as its beauty. Few rivers can boast of having such a rich and colorful history surrounding it. as does the OUACHITA.

The Indians were the first to inhabit the Ouachita Valley. Major Indian tribes living along the banks of the Ouachita included the Washita, Caddo, Osage, Tensas, Chickasaw, and Choctaw. Time brought about the disappearance of these first inhabitants, as French settlers moved into the Ouachita Valley in the early 1700s; Yet, evidence of these various tribes's unique culture can still be found, today, in the numerous Indian mounds found all along the banks of the OUACHITA. The largest Indian mound ever discovered in all of North America was located on the OUACHITA RIVER. This enormous mound measured over 400 feet square, 40 feet high, with a center mound almost 80 feet tall...., but... like so much of our past, this mound was tragically destroyed in the 1930's , when the state built a bridge on the site. Vast amounts of evidence of the enormous Indian population that once inhabited the Ouachita Valley have been unearthed... such as pottery, beads, spear and arrowheads... and in many places along this river's banks, even today, arrowheads can still be found.

Flags of many different nations have flown over the Ouachita Valley in the past 200 years

The Spanish were the first Europeans to actually explore the Ouachita River Valley. Hernando DeSoto, credited for discovering the Mississippi River, was recorded as having walked the entire length of the Ouachita River from Hot Springs , Arkansas to Jonesville, Louisiana. In his travels, DeSoto, and his men had many encounters with the Indians living along the OUACHITA. Most of what we know about the Indians in the Ouachita Valley came from DeSoto's records, and from other explorers after him.

The French were the first to settle the banks of the OUACHITA, and it was the French, who had the greatest impact and influence on the overallculture in the Ouachita Valley. The French influence can still beevidenced and felt today. Many of our areas bayous and river lakes, such as Lake D'Arbonne, Bayou Bartholomew, Bayou Desiard, Bayou LaFouche, Bayou Deloutre, Bayou Lapine, Bayou Prairion, and Bayou Frangueur to name a few are still known and called by the names given them by the first French settlers.

When the United States made the Louisiana Purchase with France in 1803 ... the rivers in the purchase were all part of a vast uncharted wilderness. Two areas immediately chosen by President , Thomas Jefferson , to be explored were the Missouri River Expedition, which became known as the famous "Lewis and Clark" expedition; ... and the Hunter-Dunbar Expedition commissioned to explore and chart the Ouachita River. Both expeditions began in May of 1804. The Hunter-Dunbar expedition charted the entire length of the OUACHITA from Jonesville, Louisiana, to Hot Springs, Arkansas, which covered a distance of more than 500 river miles.

During the years of the Civil War the OUACHITA RIVER was used to transport confederate soldiers to their different staging areas. The Confederate Army built cannon emplacements in and along the banks of the OUACHITA, in an effort, to stop the Union forces, who also, used the OUACHITA as an invasion route. Civil War gunboat activity began on the OUACHITA in May, 1863. Union Commander, S. E. Woodworth, was ordered to seize the Confederate ships, The Webb, and The Queen of the West... but, ... Confederate troops firing cannons from Ft. Beauregard, situated high above the OUACHITA at Harisonburg, Louisiana, completely stopped the Union advances and rendered this Union mission a failure.


So numerous were the steamboats that plyed the OUACHITA, and its tributaries, that it would be impossible to number them all. From November to July, steamboats could easily ply the OUACHITA as far as Monroe, and during high water could steam on, as far as, Arkadelphia, Arkansas. These boats could carry as much as 1,000 bales of cotton at a time ... with larger boats carrying as much as 5,000 bales.

Steamboats became an integral part of the history connected with this magnificent river. For almost a century from 1819 - 1910 , with the exception of the Civil War years, the OUACHITA was the great highway of commerce and transportation for the entire Ouachita Valley.

The arrival of a steamboat was always cause for celebration. Long repeated blast from the boat's powerful whistle, often accompanied by the firing of a cannon , caused people to drop everything... and run to meet the boat. The Steamboat era was by far the grandest and most colorful in the Ouachita's history.

Certain plants have been discovered growing in areas along the banks of the OUACHITA that botanist claim are found no where else in Louisiana except along the Ouachita; Geologist and Paleontologists have located and unearthed, in abundance, along certain stretches of the OUACHITA , whale bones, sharks teeth, fossil finds, and other marine life, including various kinds of seashell; which, leads them to believe that the Ouachita Valley, in some past age, was part of the Gulf of Mexico. Many of these unusual finds have been studied
and written about, and have proved very beneficial to science.

© 2007 - Ouachita River Foundation