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The first steam powered boat to come up the OUACHITA was built in Pittsburg, and named the "Monroe". Before coming up the OUACHITA it steamed first to New Orleans, where it sank upon arrival. After being raised, it steamed up the OUACHITA scaring everyone along the way. Some described it as a puffing monster ... others said: " it looked like a backwoods sawmill on a wooden barge, that had been set on fire." The city of Monroe, Louisiana was later named after this steamnoat.

From 1819 to 1910 the OUACHITA River was the great highway of commerce and transportation for the entire Ouachita Valley. The Steamboat Era was the grandest and most colorful in the OUACHITA'S history.

The arrival of a Steamboat was always cause for celebration. Long repeated blasts 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.

Many farmers living along the banks of the Ouachita would meet the boats to sell vegetables to the cooks on the boat. This family photo, made in the early 1900s, is typical of the many farming families that lived along the Ouachita and furnished the vegetables for the steamboat kitchens.

The boilers of the steamboats that plyed the Ouachita in the 1800s were constructed with little or no attention to safety features such as pressure relief valves. Boiler explosions, therefore were common occurances on steamboat runs. The steambot Edna blew up at Columbia, Louisiana in 1866, hurling crewman and debris into the streets of Columbia, a distance of over 500 feet.

Due to excessive accidents occuring on steamboats in the early 1800's, the government was forced to establish and regulate safety rules aboard all steamboats.These safety rules, especially, applied to boilers, being fired to extreme pressures to allow boat captains to outrun their competitors,... but, one captain was quoted, as saying: "Regulations can be over-looked for the right brand of whiskey

A famous 20 year feud between two Confederate officers, Colonel F.C. Jones, and General John Liddell, ended on the OUACHITA in 1870. The two met up on the steamboat St. Mary, as it forged up the OUACHITA towards Harrisonburg, Louisiana. Both were armed with their civil war pistols. Colonel Jones, shot and killed, General Liddell, before he could fire a shot; but, was killed, himself, a few days later by friends of Lidell.

Competition between railroads and steamboats grew dramatically in the early 1900's. In 1905, Captain L. V.. Cooley, steamed his boat, the "America", to Camden, Arkansas, to pick up 500 bales of cotton for delivery to New Orleans. Upon arrival, Cooley, found the railroads, also, bidding for the same delivery; which ended in a bidding war with Cooley, finally, winning. Cooley, delivered the cotton to New Orleans for a mere... one dollar.

The first stationary lock and dams were built on the OUACHITA from 1902 to 1925. There was a total of six locks and dams spaced at intervals along the river from Franklin Shoals Arkansas to Harrisonburg, Louisiana. By 1984 all of these dams had been replaced by four more modern locks and dams spaced fromCalion, Arkansas to Jonesville, Louisiana

The Steamboat Era faded into the past in the 1920s, as public highways and railroads began being built. Landings, once filled with with people anxiously awaiting the arrival of steamboats, were abandoned. Some steamboat captains , however, did not give up, but began using their boats like tugs, and pushed barges loaded with industrial material up the OUACHITA. This effort became the forerunner of the tug and barge commonly seen on the river today.

Steamboat Captain , Louis Herbert Swayze, Jr., a native of northeast Louisiana started riverboat piloting with only a small tug and wooden barges. He eventually built and piloted some of the most memorable steamboats to ever ply the OUACHITA.







































































© 2007 - Ouachita River Foundation