The Great Raft

The Great Raft, a huge mass of timber that formed a log jam, dammed up the Red River, and flooded the surrounding area in the 19th century. Photo by R. B. Taylor, courtesy Louisiana State University, Shreveport, Noel Memorial Library Archives.

Around the end of the 17th century, a massive log jam called the Great Raft (actually a series of log jams) began forming on the Red, backing up the river upstream from present-day Natchitoches, Louisiana. By 1805, the Great Raft covered over 100 linear miles of the river, creating a series of raft lakes that flooded low-lying areas and backed up tributary streams. The Great Raft also effectively blocked boat traffic along the river and impeded overland travel through the region. The raft lakes also forced several of the Cadohadacho groups to abandon certain villages and move elsewhere. On the positive side, the environmental barrier temporarily slowed the westward expansion of Anglo settlement, buying the Cadohadacho groups a few more decades. In 1833, Captain Henry Shreve began directing a federal program of raft removal, a project that did not fully succeed until the mid-1870s. It is likely that in earlier times similar log jams created raft lakes that temporarily effected prehistoric Caddo settlements along Red River.

Back to Map