Great Bend of The Red River

Strong winds picking up fine sand from sand bars on the wide, inside bends of the Red River in the Great Bend area. Photo by Frank Schambach.

The Red River is the central feature of the Caddo Homeland and its largest river, the last (southernmost) major western tributary of the mighty Mississippi. The Caddo occupied about a 250-mile stretch of the Red, from Fannin County, Texas to just below Natchitoches, Louisiana. The Great Bend of the Red River was one of the core areas of Caddo settlement throughout Caddo history.

Bank of the Red River near Texarkana. The alternating bands of clay and sand visible in the bank represent floods that gave life to the river's floodplain and sometimes ruined the crops of Caddo farmers. TARL archives.
Battle Mound vicinity in the Great Bend area showing select Caddo sites (underlined) and floodplain features carved out by the Red River. Map adapted from 1983 report on the Cedar Grove site, a Late Caddo farmstead. Courtesy Arkansas Archeological Survey.

In the vicinity of the Great Bend, the Red's wide floodplain is covered with meander scars marking abandoned channels where the river once flowed. These abandoned channels often become oxbow or "cutoff" lakes gradually filling in and becoming swamps. Such features were rich sources of aquatic resources for the Caddo. Because of the wide swings of the river through time, some abandoned channel features lie several miles from the modern channel of the Red River. The wide floodplain of the Red River was ideal for Caddo farmers, offering natural clearings and deep, rich soils in stark contrast with the often-poor upland soils of the adjacent forests.

Battle Mound, the largest earthen mound constructed by the Caddo, is part of one of many Caddo settlements in the Great Bend area. The mound is located within the broad, flat Red River valley near Battle Lake, an oxbow lake that was once the main channel of the Red River. Photo by Steve Black.
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