The Great Raft was a gigantic log jam or series of "rafts" that clogged the Red and Atchafalaya Rivers and was unique in North America in terms of its scale.

Great Raft
Datec. 12th century – 1838
VenueRed and Atchafalaya Rivers
LocationNorth America
TypeLog jam


The Great Raft probably began forming in the 12th century.[1] It grew from its upper end, while decaying or washing out at the lower end. It spanned more than 160 miles (260 km) at its greatest extent by the early 1830s. The raft, at one point, extended for 165 miles (266 km) from Loggy Bayou to Carolina Bluffs.[2] The Great Raft formed part of the mythology of the local Caddo tribe[3] and protected them from competing tribes, as well as intermittently flooding land and making it fertile for agriculture.[4]


At the beginning of the 19th century, the raft extended from Campti, Louisiana, to around Shreveport, Louisiana. The raft blocked the mouth of Twelve Mile Bayou, impeding settlement in the area west of Shreveport. There were many smaller logjams on the Red River.[2]

The raft raised the banks of the river, creating bayous and several lakes called the Great Raft Lakes, including Caddo and Cross Lakes, along the lower reaches of the Red River's tributaries.[4]


In the 1830s, steamboat builder and river captain Henry Miller Shreve (1785–1851) began systematically removing the Great Raft, a task that was continued by others until the latter part of the 19th century. For his efforts, the city of Shreveport was named after him.

When Shreve began work, the raft blocked a distance from 8 miles (13 km) directly below to 17 miles (27 km) directly above Shreveport.[2] By April 1835, Shreve had removed the raft up to the mouth of Twelvemile Bayou.[2] He concluded this work in 1838, having removed the last impediment to navigation on the Red River.[2]

Second Great RaftEdit

Although Shreve had completely removed the original raft, another soon formed farther up the river. The new foot was at the head of the old raft, near today's Belcher, Louisiana.[2] This second raft gradually extended until it reached the Arkansas state line, when, in 1873, Lieutenant Eugene Woodruff succeeded in removing it.[2][5]


The removal of the massive log jams hastened the capture of the Mississippi River's waters by the Atchafalaya River, a major distributary emptying separately into the Gulf of Mexico, and forced the US Army Corps of Engineers to build the multibillion-dollar Old River Control Structure.[citation needed]

See alsoEdit


  • Tyson, Carl N. The Red River in Southwestern History. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1981. ISBN 0-8061-1659-5
  1. ^ "The Great Raft". Discovering Lewis & Clark. Retrieved November 25, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Holbrook, Stewart (2007). Lost Men of American History. Read Books. p. 404. ISBN 978-1-4067-3205-4.
  3. ^ Pels, Monica (2004). "Great Raft". Parish of Caddo. Archived from the original on August 28, 2008. Retrieved 12 October 2014.
  4. ^ a b "Great Raft History". Caddo Lake Institute. 2012. Retrieved 12 October 2014.
  5. ^ Bagur, Jacques (2001). A History of Navigation on Cypress Bayou and the Lakes. Denton, Texas, United States of America: University of North Texas Press. p. 821. ISBN 978-1-57441-135-5.

External linksEdit