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THE cousuence of Red river with the Mississippi is, by the course of the latter, estimated about 220 miles from New Orleans. Descending the Mississippi, after passing the Spanish line at the 31st degree of north lati, tude, it makes a remarkable turn to the westward, or nearly north west, for some distance before you arrive at the mouth of Red river, as though, notwithstanding the immensé quantity of its waters already, from its almost numberless tributary streams, it was still desirous of a farther augmentation, by hastening its union with Red river (which, perhaps, is second only in dignity to it that they might, from thence, flow on and join the ocean to." gether, which, for many leagues, is forced to give place to its mighty current. But there are reasons for believing the Red river did not always unite with the Mississippi, as it does at present ; and that no very great length, of time has elapsed since the Mississippi left its ancient bed, some miles to the eastward, and took its course westwardly for the purpose of intermarry, jog with Red river. The mouth of the Chaffeli, which is now, properly speaking, one of the outlets of the river Mississippi to the ocean, is just. below, in sight of the junction of Red river with the Mississippi ; and from jts resemblance to Red river in size, growth on its banks, appearance and texture of soil, and differing from that of the Mississippi, induces strongly the belief that the Chaffeli was once but the continuation of Red river to the ocean, and that it had, in its bed, no connection with the Mississippi. There is no doubt but the Mississippi has alternately occupied different places in the low growds through which it meanders, almost from the high lands of one side to those of the other, for the average space of near 30 miles. These two great rivers happening to flow, for a distance, through the same mass of swamp, that annually is almost all inundated, it is not extraordinary that their channels should find their way together ; the remarkable bend of the Mississippi, at this place, to the westward, seems to have been for the express purpose of forming this union ; after which it returns to its for mer course.
In the month of March, 1803, I ascended Red river, from its mouth to Natchitoches, in an open boat, unless when I chose to land and walk across a point, or by the beauty of the river bank, the pleasantness of its groyes, er
the variety of its shrubs and flowers, I was invited ashore to gratify or please . my curiosity. On entering the mouth of the river I found its waters turgid,
of a red colour, and of a brackish taste ; and as the Mississippi was then filling, and Red river rising, found a current, from its mouth upwards, vary.. ing considerably in places, but averaging about two miles an hour, for the : first hundred miles, which, at that time, I found to be about the same in the Mississippi ; but, when that river is high, and Red river low, there is very little current in the latter, for sixty or seventy miles ; the river, for that dis. tance, is very crooked, increasing the distance, by it, from a straight line, more than two thirds; the general course of it nearly west; that I was able to ascertain, from hearing the morning gun at Fort Adams, for three or four mornings after entering the river, which was not at the greatest height by about fourteen feet; and all the low grounds, for pear seventy miles, entirely orerflowetlike those of the Mississippi, which, in fact, is but a con. tinuation of the same. Some places appeared, by the high water mark on the trees, to overlow not more than two or three feet, particularly the right bank, below the mouth of black river, and the left bank above it; the growth, on the lowest places, willow and cotton wood, but on the highest, handsome oaks, swamp bickory, ash, grape vines, &c.
I made my calculation of our rate of ascent and distances up the river, by my watrh, noting carefully with my pencil the minute of our stops and settings off; the inlets and outlets, remarkable bends in the river, and whatever I observed any way remarkable. About six miles from the month of the river, left side, there is a bayru, as it is called, comes in, that communicates
with a lake called lake Long, which, by another bavau, communicates again with the river, through which, when there is a swell in the river, boats can pass, and cut off about 30 miles, being only 14 or 15 through it, and about 45 by the course of the river ; and through the like there is very little or no current ; but the passage is intricate and difficult to find ; a stranger should not attempt it without a pilot; people have been lost in it for several days ;but not difficult for one acquainted; we, having no pilot on board to be de. pended on, kept the river.
From the mouth of Red river to the mouth of Black river, I made it 31 miles : the water of Black river is clear, and when contrasted with the water of Red river, has a black appearance. From the mouth of Black river, Red river makes a regular twining to the left, for about 18 miles, cal, led the Grand Bend, forming a segment of nearly three fourths of a circle ; when you arrive at the bayau that leads into lake Long, which, perhaps, is in a right line, not exceeding 15 miles from the mouth of the river. From Bayau Lake Long, to Avoyall landing, called Baker's landing, I made 33 miles, and the river is remarkably crooked. At this place the guns at Fort: Adams are distinctly heard, and the sound appears to be but little south of cast. We came through a bayau called Silver Bayau, that cut off, we umderstand, six miles ; it was through the bayau about four miles. Until we arrived at Baker's landing, saw no spot of ground that did not overflow; the high water mark generally from 3 to 15 feet above its banks. After passing Black river, the edge of the banks near the river are highest ; the land falls, from the river back. At Baker's landing I went ashore; I understood, from Baker's landing, cross the point, to Le Glass' landing, was only 3 or 4 miles, and by water 15; but I found it 6 at least, and met with some difficulty in getting from where I landed to the high land at Baker's house, for water, though at low water it is a dry cart road, and less than a mile. I found Baker and his family very hospitable and kind ; Mr. Baker told me he was a native of Virginia, and had lived there upwards of 30 years. He was living, on a tolerable good high piece of land, not prairie, but joining it. After leaving Baker's house, was soon in sight of the prairie, which, I understand, is about 40 miles in circumference, longer than it is wide, very level, only a few clumps of trees to be seen, all covered with good grass. The inhabitants) are settled all around the out edge of it, by the woods, their houses facing inwards, and cultivate the prairie land. Though the soil, when turned up, by the plough, has a good appearance, what I could discover by the old corn and cotton stalks, they made but indifferent crops ; the timber land that I saw cleared and planted, produced the best į the prairie is better for grass, than for planting. The inhabitants have considerable stocks of cattle, which appears to be their principal dependence, and I was informed their beef is. of a superiour quality : they have likewise good pork ; hogs live very well ; the timbered country all round the prairie is principally ouk, that produces good mast for hogs. Corn is generally scarce ; they raise no wheat, for? they have no mills. I was informed that the lower end of the prairie, that I did not see, was much the richest land, and the inhabitants lived better, and were more wealthy; they are a mixture of French, Irish and Americans, generally poor and ignorant. Avovall, at high water, is an island, elevated 30 or 40 feet above high water mark; the quantity of timbered land exceeds that of the prairie, which is likewise pretty level, but scarcely a second quality of soil. La Glass' landing, as it is called, I found about a mile and a half from the upper end of the prairie ; the high lands bluff to the river. After leaving this place found the banks rise higher and higher on each side, and fit for settlements ; on the right side pine woods sometimes in sight. i left the boat again about eight miles from Le Glass' landing, right side; walked two and a half miles across a point, to a Mr. Hoomes'; round the point is called !6 miles. I found the lands, through which I passed, high : Poderately hilly; the soil a good second quality, clay ; timber, large oak, hickory, some short leaved pine ; and several small streams of clear running water. This description of lands extended back 5 or 6 miles, and bounded by open pine woods, which continue, for 30 miles, to Ocatahola. I found Mr. Hoomes' house on a high bluff very near the river ; his plantation the same description of land through which I had passed, producing good corn, cotton and tobacco, and he told me he had tried it in wheat, which succeed. ed well, but having no mills to manufacture it, had only made the experiment. Mr. Hoomes told me all the lands round his, for many miles, were vacant. On the south side there is a large body of rich, low grounds, extending to the borders of Appalousa, watcred and drained by Bayau Robert and Bayau Beauf, two handsome streams of clcar water that rise in the high Lands between Red river and Sabine, and after meandering through this immense mass of low grounds of 30 or 40 miles square, fall into the Chaffeli, to the south ward of Avoyall. I believe, in point of soil, growth of timber, goodness of water, and conveniency to navigation, there is not a more valuable body of land in this part of Louisiana. From Mr. Hoomes' to the mouth of Rapide Bayau is, by the river, 35 miles. A few scattering settlements on the right side, but none on the left; the right is preferred to settle on, on account of their stocks being convenient to the high lands ; but the settlers on the right side own the lands on the left side too ; the lands on the Bayau Rapide are the same quality as those on Bayaus Robert and Beauf, and, in fact, are a continuation of the same body of lands. Bayau Rapide is some. what in the form of a half moon ; the two points, or horns, meeting the river about 20 miles from each other : the length of the bayau is about 30 miles ; on the back of it there is a large bayau falls in, on which there is a saw mill, very advantageously situated, in respect to a never failing supply of water ; plenty of timber ; and the plank can be taken from the mill tail by water. This bayau is excellent water ; rises in the pine woods, and discharges itself each way into the river, by both ends of Bayau Rapide. Boats cannot pass through the bayau, from the river to the river again, on account of rafts of timber choaking the upper end of it, but can enter the lower end and ascend it more than half through it. On the lower end of the bayau, on each side, is the principal Rapide settlement, as it is called; no country whatever can exhibit handsomer plantations, or better lands. The Rapide is a fall, or shoal, occasioned by a soft rock in the bed of the river, that extends from side to side, over which, for about five months in the year, (viz.) from July to December, there is not sufficient water for boats to pass without lightening, but at all other seasons it is the same as any other part of the river. This rock, or hard clay, for it resembles the latter almost as much as the former, is so soft it may be cut away with a pen knife, or any sharp instrument, and scarcely turn the edge, and extends up and down the river but a few yards ; and I have heard several intelligent persons give it as their opinion, that the extraordinary expense and trouble the inhabitants were at, in one year, in getting loaded boats over this shoal, would be more than sufficient to cut a passage through it ; but it happens at a season of the year when the able planters are occupied at home, and would make no use of the river were there no obstructions in it ; but at any rate, the navigation of the river is clear a longer proportion of the year than the rivers in the northern countries are clear of ice. But this obstruction is certainly removable, at a very trifing expense, in comparison to the importance of having it done ; and nothing but the nature of the government we have lately emerged from, can be assigned as a reason for its not having been effected long ago.
After passing the Rapides there are very few settlements to be seen, on the main river, for about 20 miles, though both sides appeared to me to be capable of making as valuable settlements as any on the river ; we arrive then at the Indian villages, on both sides, situated exceedingly pleasant, and on the best lands ; after passing which you arrive at a large, beautiful plantation of Mr. Gillard ; the house is on a point of a high pine woods bluff, close
to the river, 60 or 70 feet above the common surface of the country, over· looking, on the east, or opposite side, very extensive fields of low grounds,
in high cultivation, and a long reach of the river, up and down ; and there is an excellent spring of water issues from the bluff, on which the house is situated, from an aperture in the rock that seems to have been cloven on purpose for it to flow, and a small distance, back of the house, there is a lake of clear water, abounding with fish in summer and fowl in winter. I have seen in all my life, very few more beautiful or advantageously situated places.
Six miles above Gillard's, you arrive at the small village of Boluxa Indians, where the river is divided into two channels, forming an island of about 50 miles in length, and 3 or 4 in breadth. The right hand division is called the Rigula de Bondieu, on which are no settlements ; but, I am informed, wilt admit of being well settled ; the left hand division is the boat channel, at present, to Natchitoches : the other is likewise boatable. Ascending the left hand branch for about 24 miles, we pass a thick settlement and a number of wealthy inhabitants. This is called the River Cane settlement; called so, I believe, from the banks some years ago, being a remarkable thick cane-brake.
After passing this settlement of about forty families, the river divides again, forming another island of about thirty miles in length, and from two to four in breadth, called the Isle Brevel, after a reputable old man now liv. ing in it, who first settled it. This island is sub-divided by a bayau that communicates from one river to the other, called also Bayau Brevel. The middle division of the river, is called Little river, and it is thickly settled, and is the boat channel : the westward division of the river is called False river; is navigable, but not settled; the banks are too low; it passes through a lake called Lac Occassa. When you arrive at Natchitoches, you find it a small, irregular, and meanly built village, half a dozen houses excepted, on the west side of that division of the river it is on, the high pine and oak woods approach within two or three hundred yards of the river. In the village are about forty families, twelve or fifteen are merchants or traders, nearly all French. The fort built by our troops since their arrival, called Fort Claiborne, is situated on a small hill, one street from the river, and about thirty feet higher than the river banks. All the hill is occupied by the fort and barracks, and does not exceed two acres of ground. The southern and eastern prospects from it are very beautiful. One has an extensive view of the fields and habitations down the river, and the other a similar view over the river, and of the whole village. This town, thirty or forty years ago, was much larger than at present, and situated on a hill about half a mile from its present site. Then most of the families of the district lived in the town, but finding it inconvenient on account of the stocks and farms, they filed off, one after another, and settled up and down the river. The merchants and trading people found being on the bank of the river more convenient for loading and unloading their boats, left the hill on that account ; and others, finding the river ground much superiour for gardens, to which they are in the habit of paying great attention, followed the merchants ; after them the priests and commandant ; then the church and jail (or calleboose), and now nothing of the old town is left, but the form of their gardens and some ornamental trees. It is now a very extensive common of several hundred acres, entirely tufted with clover, and covered with sheep and cattle. The hill is a stiff clay, and used to make miry streets ; the river soil, though much richer, is of a loose, sandy, texture ; the streets are neither miry nor very dusty. Our wells do not afford us good water, and the river water, in summer, is too brackish to drink, and never clear.