Steamboats on Cane River in Natchitoches…

Steamboat in Natchitoches, on Cane River along what is now Front Street, in the early 1900s. Photo from Cammie Henry Research Library
Steamboat in Natchitoches, on Cane River along what is now Front Street, in the early 1900s. Photo from Cammie Henry Research Library

It’s hard to imagine now, but once upon a couple hundred years or so ago, steamboats traveled the Cane River right in front of what is now Front Street in Natchitoches, Louisiana.

In fact, the Cane River in Natchitoches (which today is actual lake) was the head of the navigation for the Mississippi River/Red River route.

A gigantic natural log jam which was a bit upstream from present day Natchitoches prevented any further progress by boat.

The Cane River actually began as the Red River itself.  A massive natural log jam (dubbed the “Great Raft) just upstream from the present location of Natchitoches prevented any further progress by boat.

When French Explorer Louis Juchereau de St. Denis discovered this, he built a small fort on the west bank of the Red River at that point. That 1714 construction was the beginning of Natchitoches, making it the oldest permanent settlement in the entire Louisiana Purchase Territory.

After the raft was cleared (Henry Shreve, the namesake of Shreveport, heading up the efforts to clear the raft), the river began to change the course of its main channel.  The new channel cut across a bend some four mile upstream at Grand Ecore. After that, steamboat access into the City of Natchitoches became a only sporadic thing, and eventually only possible during high water periods. (This resulted in Grand Ecore to grow into a significant settlement featuring at least two hotels.

As the new channel became deeper, the route through Natchitoches became less and less navigable and in the early 1900s, dams were built to separate “Cane River Lake” from Red River.

And now, you pretty much aren’t going to see a steamboat while you are in downtown Natchitoches.

From Cammie G. Henry Research Center, steamboat in Natchitoches, on Cane River in front of
From Cammie G. Henry Research Center, steamboat in Natchitoches, on Cane River in front of
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