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.

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.

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