The Great Raft probably began forming around 1100–1200 AD. It grew faster at its upper end than the lower end decayed or washed out, leading to its peak length spanning more than 160 miles/250 km in the early 1830s. The raft, at one point, extended for 165 miles from Loggy Bayou to Carolina Bluffs. The Great Raft formed part of the mythology of the local Caddo tribe and protected them from competing tribes, as well as intermittently flooding land and making it fertile for agriculture.
At the beginning of the 1800s, the Raft extended from Campti, Louisiana to around Shreveport. The raft blocked the mouth of Twelvemile Bayou, impeding settlement in the area west of Shreveport. There were many smaller logjams on the Red. The raft raised the banks of the river, forming bayous and making several lakes, called the Great Raft Lakes and including Caddo and Cross Lakes, along the lower reaches of Red River tributaries.
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, Louisiana, was named after him.
When Shreve began work the Raft was 8 miles directly below to 17 miles directly above Shreveport.
Second Great Raft
Although Shreve had completely removed the raft it reformed later farther up the river. The new foot was at the head of the old Raft. This was near today's Belcher, Louisiana. The second Raft gradually extended until it reached the Arkansas state line. Lieutenant Eugene Woodruff succeeded in removing this second raft in 1873.
The removal of the logjams hastened the capture of the Mississippi River's waters by the Atchafalaya River and forced the US Army Corps of Engineers to build the multibillion dollar Old River Control Structure.
- Tyson, Carl N. The Red River in Southwestern History. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1981. ISBN 0-8061-1659-5
- Holbrook, Stewart (2007). Lost Men of American History. Read Books. p. 404. ISBN 1-4067-3205-2. ISBN 9781406732054.
- "Great Raft". Parish of Caddo. 2004. Retrieved 12 October 2014.
- "Great Raft History". www.InvasivesWatch.org. Caddo Lake Institute. 2012. Retrieved 12 October 2014.
- Bagur, Jacques (2001). A History of Navigation on Cypress Bayout and the Lakes. Denton, Texas, United States of America: University of North Texas Press. p. 821. ISBN 1-57441-135-7. ISBN 9781574411355.
- THE ATTACK ON THE GREAT RAFT by Edith S McCall, author of Conquering the Rivers: Henry Miller Shreve and the Navigation of America’s Inland Waterways (Louisiana State University, 1984). ISBN 0-8071-1127-9
- Great Raft, Parish of Caddo, 2004.
- The Great Raft (English). From Discovering Lewis & Clark , with an undated photograph courtesy Noel Memorial Library Archives, Louisiana State University, Shreveport, and another by photographer R. B. Talfour in 1873.