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.
NATIVE AMERICAN HISTORY
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.
THE COMING OF THE EUROPEANS
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.
FIRST EXPLORATION TO CHART THE OUACHITA RIVER
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.
CIVIL WAR HISTORY
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.
STEAMBOAT HISTORY ON THE OUACHITA
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
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.
RARE PLANTS AND FOSSIL FINDS ALONG THE OUACHITA
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
written about, and have proved very beneficial to science.