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Natchitoches, Louisiana

Coordinates: 31°41′35″N 93°05′42″W / 31.69306°N 93.09500°W / 31.69306; -93.09500
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Exchange Bank in Downtown Natchitoches
Exchange Bank in Downtown Natchitoches
Official seal of Natchitoches
The Destination of Travelers since 1714
Location of Natchitoches in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana
Location of Natchitoches in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana
Natchitoches is located in Louisiana
Natchitoches is located in the United States
Coordinates: 31°41′35″N 93°05′42″W / 31.69306°N 93.09500°W / 31.69306; -93.09500
CountryUnited States
Settled1714 (310 years ago) (1714)
Incorporated as a townFebruary 5, 1819 (205 years ago) (1819-02-05)
 • TypeMayor-Council
 • BodyCity Council
 • MayorRonnie Williams, Jr.
 • Total26.28 sq mi (68.07 km2)
 • Land22.69 sq mi (58.77 km2)
 • Water3.59 sq mi (9.31 km2)
 • Total18,039
 • Density795.05/sq mi (306.97/km2)
Time zoneUTC−6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code318
Louisiana Highways link = Louisiana Highway 6
WebsiteCity of Natchitoches
Natchitoches City Hall
A store with live fish for sale near Natchitoches, 1940. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott.

Natchitoches (/ˈnækətəʃ/ NAK-ə-təsh;[2][3] French: Les Natchitoches, [le nakitɔʃ]), officially the City of Natchitoches, is a small city and the parish seat of Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, United States.[4] At the 2020 United States Census, the city's population was 18,039. Established in 1714 by Louis Juchereau de St. Denis as part of French Louisiana, the community was named after the indigenous Natchitoches people.

The City of Natchitoches was incorporated on February 5, 1819, after Louisiana had become a state in 1812. It is the oldest permanent settlement in the land acquired by the Louisiana Purchase. Natchitoches is home to Northwestern State University. Its sister city is Nacogdoches, Texas.


Early years[edit]

Natchitoches was established in 1714 by Canadien explorer Louis Juchereau de St. Denis. It is the oldest permanent European settlement within the borders of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase.[5] Natchitoches was founded as a French outpost on the Red River for trade with Spanish-controlled Mexico; French traders settled there as early as 1699. The post was established near a village of Natchitoches Indians, after whom the city was named. Early settlers were French Catholic immigrants and creoles (originally meaning those ethnic French born in the colony). French creoles acquired lands that were developed in the antebellum years as cotton-producing Magnolia Plantation and Oakland Plantation. Each has been preserved and is designated as a National Historic Landmark.

After the United States' Louisiana Purchase of 1803, migration into the territory increased from the US. Natchitoches grew along with the population in the parish. Initially, the Americans were primarily of English and Scots-Irish ancestry and of Protestant faith. They developed several cotton plantations along the Red River. Numerous enslaved African Americans were brought to the area through the domestic slave trade to work the cotton, and provide all other skills on these plantations, generating the revenues for the wealthy planters before the Civil War.

The United States Government established a federal fur trade factory here in 1805. It was removed to Sulphur Fork, Arkansas in 1818.[6]

In the 1820s and early 1830s, Natchitoches also served as a freight transfer point for cotton shipped from parts of east Texas. Cotton shippers used a land route crossing the Sabine River to Natchitoches, where the freight was transferred to boats, and floated down the Red River to New Orleans.[7]

When the course of the Red River shifted, it bypassed Natchitoches and cut off its lucrative connection with the Mississippi River. A 33-mile (53 km) oxbow lake was left in the river's previous location which became known as Cane River Lake.

Civil War[edit]

During the Civil War, Natchitoches was set on fire by Union soldiers who retreated through the town after their failed attempt to capture Shreveport. Confederate cavalry pursued the fleeing soldiers and arrived in time to help extinguish the flames before the town was destroyed. Alexandria was destroyed by Union troops in 1864, but both Union and Confederate troops were responsible for severely damaging plantations along the river during the war, including Magnolia and Oakland.

Radford Blunt published the Natchitoches Republican. He was also a candidate for the state legislature. William H. Tunnard edited the paper.[8]

20th century[edit]

As the parish seat, Natchitoches suffered from the decline in agricultural population through the mid-20th century, and grew at a markedly lower rate after 1960. The mechanization of agriculture had reduced the number of workers needed, and many moved to cities for jobs. By the early 1970s, the town's businesses were declining, along with many area farms, and buildings were boarded up.

In the mid-1970s, Mayor Bobby DeBlieux and other preservationists believed that attracting tourists to the area, based on its historic assets of nearly intact plantations and numerous historic buildings, could be a key to attracting visitors, reviving the town, and stimulating new businesses. Over the years, he worked with a variety of landowners and local people to gain support for designating a historic district in the city. He also supported making a national park out of the working area of Magnolia Plantation, which had many surviving outbuildings from the 19th century, and from Oakland Plantation, both downriver in the parish.[9]

By the end of the 20th century, the mile-long French colonial area of downtown, which lies along Cane Lake, was designated as a National Historic District. Many buildings were adapted as antique shops, restaurants and souvenir emporiums. To accommodate tourists, the town had 32 bed-and-breakfast inns, the highest in the state.[9] By 2018, that number had increased to 50.

The plantation country surrounds Cane River Lake. The markedly intact downriver Magnolia and Oakland plantations were designated as National Historic Landmarks, and are part of what has been developed as the Cane River Creole National Historical Park,[9] which was authorized in 1994,[10] with the support of US Senator J. Bennett Johnston. He was a cousin by marriage of Betty Hertzog, the last of the family to live in the great house at Magnolia.[9]

Tours and interpretive programs at both sites continue to attract visitors, especially as they grapple with telling the difficult history of slavery and its aftermath at the plantations. They also cover the contributions of blacks and Creoles of color to the community.[9] In April 2022, the city council added Juneteenth as an official city holiday.[11]

Since the late 20th century, the 35-mile oxbow lake has served as the spring-break training location for numerous university crew teams,[12] from universities such as the University of St. Thomas, Kansas State University, University of Kansas, Wichita State University, Murray State University, University of Central Oklahoma, and Washington University in St. Louis, as well as Northwestern State University. In the spring of 2018, LSU, Alabama, Texas and Georgia were also represented. Tourists interested in sports often visit in this period to watch the sports teams.[12]

Over the years, the city and parish have improved conditions with a riverbank stabilization project and a water pump project to improve water levels in the lake. This directs water from Hampton Lake into Bayou Possiant, which feeds Cane River Lake.[12]

In March 1965, nine children were among seventeen people killed in a natural gas pipeline explosion.[13]

Natchitoches was the site of the 1973 plane crash that claimed the life of singer-songwriter Jim Croce. Croce had performed a concert on campus for Northwestern State University students at Prather Coliseum. He was killed less than an hour later in a plane headed to Sherman, Texas. The crash may have been a result of the pilot suffering a fatal heart attack.[14]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 25.1 square miles (65 km2), of which 21.6 square miles (56 km2) are land and 3.6 square miles (9.3 km2) (14.21%) are covered by water.

A 35-mi-long (56 km) lake was formed from a portion of the Red River when it changed course. It is now known as Cane River Lake. The municipal water supply comes from nearby Sibley Lake, a formerly drained wetland dammed in 1962, which also offers fishing and boating.


Soils in this area are a combination of leaf mold and red clays, sand, and sediments. The area is part of the Chestnut Salt Dome.


Though Natchitoches has few multistorey buildings, it has retained much of its historic European-style architecture listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Natchitoches Historic District. The city is a mesh of wrought iron, stucco, and red brick. The city still has one of the original brick streets (Front Street), which the historical society protects from alterations. The city of Natchitoches recently completed a restoration project to repair the century-old brick street. During this process, workers removed each brick one by one, numbered it, cleaned it, and then replaced it after utilities, drainage, and the foundation were repaired beneath. [citation needed]


Climate data for Natchitoches, Louisiana (1991–2020 normals, extremes 1893–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 84
Mean maximum °F (°C) 76.6
Mean daily maximum °F (°C) 59.8
Daily mean °F (°C) 49.5
Mean daily minimum °F (°C) 39.2
Mean minimum °F (°C) 23.4
Record low °F (°C) 3
Average precipitation inches (mm) 5.08
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 10.2 8.8 9.1 6.5 8.2 9.4 8.6 6.5 6.9 7.1 7.4 9.8 98.5
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.2
Source: NOAA[15][16]

Weather-wise, Natchitoches lies in a boundary region that separates the plains of Texas from the consistently humid Gulf Coast. This gives summers both heat and humidity. Winters in Natchitoches are relatively mild, with measurable snowfall once every 5–10 years. Natchitoches averages 54.93 inches (1,395 mm) of rain per year. The city is in an area that frequently experiences severe thunderstorms, hail, damaging winds, and tornadoes. [citation needed]


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[17]
The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Natchitoches is located across from the old Courthouse Museum
Though founded by Roman Catholics, Natchitoches has a large First Baptist Church located in the downtown district
Riverwalk of Cane River in downtown Natchitoches as photographed from Front Street
Reconstructed Fort Saint Jean Baptiste museum on Jefferson Street in Natchitoches
Downtown Natchitoches with historic buildings, stores, and shops, maintains brick streets
Natchitoches Arts Center on Second Street near City Hall

2020 census[edit]

Natchitoches Racial Composition[18]
Race Num. Perc.
White 6,370 35.31%
Black or African American 9,892 54.84%
Native American 64 0.35%
Asian 122 0.68%
Pacific Islander 10 0.06%
Other/Mixed 671 3.72%
Hispanic or Latino 910 5.04%

As of the 2020 United States Census, there were 18,039 people, 6,222 households, and 2,773 families residing in the city.

2010 census[edit]

As of the 2010 census,[19] 18,323 people, 6,705 households, and 3,631 families were residing in the city. The population density was 828.5 inhabitants per square mile (319.9/km2). The 7,906 housing units averaged 312.2 units per square mile (120.5 units/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 59.0% African American, 36.4% White, 0.5% Native American, 0.6% Asian, 0.42% from other races, and 1.5% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race was 1.7% of the population.

Of the 6,113 households, 30.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 34.3% were married couples living together, 21.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.6% were not families. About 30.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.50, and the average family size was 3.18.

In the city, the age distribution was 23.6% under the age of 18, 27.2% from 18 to 24, 21.8% from 25 to 44, 16.0% from 45 to 64, and 11.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 24.5 years. For every 100 females, there were 85.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 80.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $23,261, and for a family was $30,396. Males had a median income of $28,601 versus $17,859 for females. The per capita income for the city was $12,642. About 26.7% of families and 34.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 45.0% of those under age 18 and 19.2% of those aged 65 or over.

Native American tribes[edit]


City Bank and Trust Company is one of several financial institutions in downtown Natchitoches.
Kaffie-Frederick, Inc., is the oldest general store in Louisiana.

Following continued population decline in the area, in part due to mechanization of agriculture, by the 1970s, Natchitoches had suffered an economic downturn that resulted in a 65% vacancy in the commercial district. Because of efforts to revitalize the city and emphasize its unique historic assets, as described above, vacancy is now about 1%.

The Port of Natchitoches—a river port on the Red River—is located off the eastbound part of U.S. Route 84, just outside Natchitoches. The port exports lumber from yards onsite, as forestry is a major industry in the area, as well.

Natchitoches Regional Airport serves cities (via FBO) such as Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Dallas, Houston, Little Rock, Monroe, and Shreveport. It is adjacent to Northwestern State University; together, they offer flight training. The airport is under renovation to become one of the country's most advanced non-towered airports.[citation needed]

The Natchitoches National Fish Hatchery is based here. They handle over six species of fish and other wildlife. The parish attracts numerous sports fishermen during the seasons.

The Natchitoches Christmas Festival is a well-known celebration of the holidays for locals. The festival is held on the river.[20]

Since completion of Interstate 49, many business have either moved or have been built outside the city's central area. Gas stations and hotels have developed in this area and serve many of the Natchitoches Christmas Festival visitors.

In 1998, Natchitoches was named one of the top six places in the United States to retire by Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine.


The Cane River National Heritage Area is a 116,000-acre (470 km2) area which includes many sites such as Oakland Plantation, Melrose Plantation, Badin-Roque House, Magnolia Plantation, Kate Chopin House, Cherokee Plantation, Cane River Heritage Scenic Byway, Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site, National Historic Landmark District (Old Courthouse Museum, Bishop Martin Museum, Landmarks in Time Exhibit), and Los Adaes State Historic Site. Because of this richness of culture, the area is one of the destinations on the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail newly designated by the state.

Natchitoches, a popular tourism area of the state, is equipped to serve visitors with 11 national chain hotels, and 27 bed-and-breakfast inns,[21] including the Steel Magnolia House.[22]

Natchitoches attracts over one million visitors annually. The city is known as a retiree-friendly city. In 2006, Natchitoches was awarded the Great American Main Street Award for the effort the community has put into revitalizing and restoring much of the historic district.

The city's tourism center is the downtown river walk. This includes Front Street, which becomes Jefferson at the Texas Street light. Front Street is the jewel of the city. It overlooks the river walk and is bordered by an assortment of shops and boutiques. The city has identified this area as its historical district. The Historical Society maintains the area through regulations on changes and restorations. Natchitoches has a mini "Walk of Fame" located in the historical district of the city.

While visiting the area, tourists may notice many unusual structures; these are many of the Natchitoches Christmas Festival lights. The city recently built a small convention center located on Second Street, which holds many city events.

The Bayou Pierre Alligator Park is a major tourist attraction, where tourists may feed the alligators and dine and shop. The park teaches school children to respect nature and to conserve its many habitats. Natchitoches is home to a branch of the Kisatchie National Forest, a designation promoted by naturalist Caroline Dormon to preserve regional natural wonders.

Opened December 2005, the Natchitoches Events Center is in the Natchitoches National Historic Landmark District. Located at 750 Second Street, the facility has a 40,000-square-foot (3,700 m2) meeting facility, a 15,000-square-foot (1,400 m2) exhibit hall with three meeting rooms, a board room, and a full-sized catering kitchen.

National Guard[edit]

A Troop 2-108TH CAV is headquartered behind the local college and the airport. This unit has been deployed twice to Iraq, first as part of the 1-156TH Armor Battalion in 2004–2005, and then as part of the 2-108TH CAV SQDN in 2010. Both times, this company-sized unit deployed with the 256th Infantry Brigade.,

Arts and culture[edit]

The Natchitoches Meat Pie is one of the official state foods of Louisiana. It is known as a regional delicacy of North Louisiana. (See List of U.S. state foods.)

Natchitoches has long been known for its popular Christmas Festival of Lights which is held the first Saturday in December. The lights continue to brighten the Cane River until after New Year's Day. In 2019 the festival celebrated its 93rd year.


Colleges and universities[edit]

The Northwestern Campus is also home to the Louisiana Scholars' College, the state's designated honors college for the study of the liberal arts and sciences. As a part of its effort to become a global campus, NSU is a sister university with many universities in Asia.

Natchitoches Parish is in the service area of Bossier Parish Community College.[23]

Primary and secondary schools[edit]

Public schools[edit]

Natchitoches Parish School Board operates many public schools. They include:

  • East Natchitoches Elementary/Middle School
  • George L. Parks Elementary
  • L.P. Vaughn Elementary
  • M.R. Weaver Elementary
  • NSU Elementary/Middle Laboratory School
  • Natchitoches Junior High—Frankie Ray Jackson School
  • Natchitoches Magnet School
  • Natchitoches Central High School

The city is also home to the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts, a public residential honors high school.

Private schools[edit]

St. Mary's High School is in Natchitoches.




Natchitoches is the principal city of the Natchitoches media market for radio.


Natchitoches is part of the Shreveport media market for television.[24]


Health care[edit]

Natchitoches Regional Medical Center is a 78-bed facility that includes 45 medical/surgical beds and a 112-bed skilled nursing home. Rehabilitation treatment is at the PRISM Center for physical, occupational and speech therapy, sports medicine, industrial medicine, wound care and more. NRMC was established in 1956.[25]

Notable people[edit]

Noted events[edit]

The Steel Magnolias Bed and Breakfast on Jefferson Street is among some fifty such lodgings in Natchitoches
The Violet Hill Bed and Breakfast in Natchitoches

Natchitoches was the site of a gas pipeline explosion on March 4, 1965, that killed 17 people.[28]

In 1973, singer-songwriter Jim Croce was killed when his plane crashed as it was leaving Natchitoches Regional Airport.

Natchitoches received numerous New Orleans evacuees due to Hurricane Katrina (2005). Many college students from New Orleans were transferred to Northwestern State University to continue their education.[29]

In popular culture[edit]

Multiple movies have been filmed here, including:


  1. ^ "2020 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved March 20, 2022.
  2. ^ Dorman, Jim (February 4, 2020). "Natchitoches native makes Company's 'Steel Magnolias' bloom with authenticity". The Patriot Ledger. Worcester, Massachusetts.
  3. ^ Block, Melissa (January 23, 2014). "Natchi — What's It Now? A Local Sets Us Straight". All Things Considered. Retrieved March 21, 2021.
  4. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  5. ^ "City of Natchitoches". natchitochesla.gov. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  6. ^ Wesley, Edgar Bruce (1935). Guarding the frontier. The University of Minnesota Press, p. 40.
  7. ^ Holbrook, Abigail Curlee (1952). "Cotton Marketing in Antebellum Texas". The Southwestern Historical Quarterly. Vol. 73, no. 4. pp. 431–455. JSTOR 30236594.
  8. ^ "Geo. P. Rowell and Co.'s American Newspaper Directory". 1874.
  9. ^ a b c d e Ginger Thompson, "Reaping What Was Sown On the Old Plantation; A Landowner Tells Her Family's Truth. A Park Ranger Wants a Broader Truth.", The New York Times, June 22, 2000. Retrieved May 3, 2018
  10. ^ National Park Service: Official Cane River Creole National Historical Park website
  11. ^ Holdiness, Timothy (April 26, 2022). "Natchitoches adds Juneteenth as official holiday". KTBS. Retrieved August 26, 2023.
  12. ^ a b c "Nine college rowing teams using Cane River this month", Natchitoches Parish Journal, March 22, 2018. Retrieved May 3, 2018
  13. ^ "Gas Blast Kills Seventeen in Louisiana". The Corpus Christi Times. March 4, 1965. Retrieved November 21, 2020.
  14. ^ "Jim Croce and five others die in plane crash", Rolling Stone, October 25, 1973
  15. ^ "NowData – NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved August 20, 2021.
  16. ^ "Station: Natchitoches, LA". U.S. Climate Normals 2020: U.S. Monthly Climate Normals (1991–2020). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved August 20, 2021.
  17. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  18. ^ "Explore Census Data". data.census.gov. Retrieved December 7, 2021.
  19. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  20. ^ "Holiday Festival Lights Up Natchitoches". Louisiana Official Travel and Tourism Information. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  21. ^ "Bed & Breakfasts, Cabins, and Guest Houses in Natchitoches, LA".
  22. ^ "Home". steelmagnoliahouse.com.
  23. ^ "Our Colleges". Louisiana's Technical and Community Colleges. Retrieved June 3, 2021.
  24. ^ "Market Search: Shreveport DMA Overview". Katz Radio Group. Retrieved April 13, 2023.
  25. ^ "Natchitoches Regional Medical Center at National Rural Health". National Rural Health Resource Center. Retrieved January 1, 2024.
  26. ^ "Membership in the Louisiana House of Representatives, 1812–2016" (PDF). house.louisiana.gov. Retrieved September 9, 2014.
  27. ^ "In Memoriam: Monnie T. Cheves". Alexandria Daily Town Talk. August 17, 1988. p. D3. Archived from the original on September 10, 2014. Retrieved September 9, 2014.
  28. ^ "Natchitoches, LA Gas Pipeline Explosion, Mar 1965". GenDisasters.com. Archived from the original on June 28, 2011. Retrieved October 5, 2010.
  29. ^ "Wayback Machine" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on December 28, 2016. Retrieved February 2, 2024.
  30. ^ Scott, Mike (September 9, 2013). "Following in the real footsteps of '12 Years a Slave' figure Solomon Northup: Mike's Movie Mailbag". The Times-Picayune. Advance Publications. Retrieved October 25, 2013.
  31. ^ Sacks, Ethan (October 13, 2013). "No ordinary movie, '12 Years a Slave' is a brutal and honest depiction of America's gravest mistake". Daily News. New York: Daily News, L.P. Retrieved October 27, 2013.

External links[edit]