The work of the Red River Waterway Commission represents the seven-parish Red River Waterway District that encompasses Caddo, Bossier, Red River, Natchitoches, Grant, Rapides, and Avoyelles Parishes. Commissioners are appointed from each of those parishes, plus four at-large commissioners also serve.
After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, settlers flooded the Red River Valley. River transportation at that time was primarily keelboats, flatboats, pirogues, rafts and bateaus. Navigating the river was complicated by log jams, or "raft." The most famous of these was "The Great Raft" extending from Natchitoches to Shreveport. It wasimpassable even to the Indians.
Recognizing the growth potential for the river, a well-known inventor and engineer, Captain Henry Miller Shreve, offered the U.S. government a plan to clear the river in 1824. With a steam snag boat of his own design, Shreve eliminated the raft at a cost of $300,000, less than 10% of previous estimates. Thus, the Red River became navigable from its mouth north for several hundred miles. But despite the success, efforts to keep the river clear ended with the outbreak of the Civil War.
It wasn't until the River and Harbors Act of 1968, that the 90th Congress authorized construction of the Red River Waterway project. Since completion of the 5 locks & dams in 1994, it has served as a year-round waterway connecting ports north and south for businesses the world over.
The Red River Waterway Commission meets the 3rd Wednesday of every month at 10:00 a.m. in Natchitoches.