RED RIVER, the name of two American rivers, one emptying into the Mississippi near its mouth, and the other emptying into Lake Winnipeg.
1. The Red river, sometimes called the Red River of Louisiana, is the southernmost of the large tributaries of the Mississippi. It rises in northern Texas, in the northern part of the Staked Plains, or Llano Estacado, flows E. by S. in Texas, between Texas and Oklahoma, and to Fulton, in south-western Arkansas, there turns S.E. and continues in a general southeasterly direction through Louisiana to the bank of the Mississippi, where it discharges partly into the Mississippi and partly into the Atchafalaya. Its length is estimated at 1200 m. or more; its drainage basin has an area of at least 90,000 sq. m.; and its discharge ranges from 3500 cub. ft. to 180,000 cub. ft. per second. It is somewhat saline in its upper course, and in its middle and lower course is laden with a reddish silt from which it takes its name. From an elevation on the Staked Plains of about 2450 ft., the river plunges into a canyon which is about 60 m. long and has nearly perpendicular walls of sandstone and gypsum formation 500 to 800 ft. high. Immediately below the canyon the river spreads out over a broad and sandy bed and flows for about 500 m. through a semi-arid plain. It narrows on entering the alluvial bottom lands, through which it pursues a sluggish and meandering course for the last 600 m. At high stages, from December to June, it is continually shifting its channel in this part of its course, by eroding one bank and making deposits on the other, and as the upper portion is densely wooded the falling trees, unless removed, become an obstruction to navigation. In 1828 the trees which the river had felled formed the great “ Red River raft” extending from Loggy Bayou, 65 m. below Shreveport, Louisiana, to Hurricane Bluffs, 27 m. above Shreveport. Congress began in that year to make appropriations for the removal of the raft, and by 1841 Henry M. Shreve had opened a channel. The river was neglected from 1857 to 1872 and another raft, 32 m. in length, formed above Shreveport. A channel was opened through this in 1872–73, and the complete removal of the obstruction a few years later so improved the drainage that a large tract of waste land was reclaimed. In its course through Louisiana the river has built up a flood-plain with silt deposits more rapidly than its tributaries, with the result that numerous lakes and bayous have been formed on either side, and Cypress Bayou was so flooded that boats plied between Shreveport, Louisiana and Jefferson, Texas, 45 m. apart; but with the improvement of the river these lakes have become shallow or dry. For the improvement of navigation here not only the removal of snags is necessary, but there must be dredging, closure of outlets, building of levees to narrow and deepen the channel, and revetment works to protect the banks. The cost of these works has been great (up to July 1909 more than $2,360,000 below Fulton, Arkansas, and more than $215,000 above Fulton), but they have rendered the river navigable, except at very low stages, by vessels drawing 3 ft. of water from its mouth to Fulton, Arkansas, a distance of 508.6 m., and at the highest stages, in March and April, it is navigable to Denison, Texas, 292 m. farther up. The Ouachita and Black (one river), which is the principal tributary of the Red, joins it near its mouth and is navigable at high stages to Arkadelphia, Arkansas; and in 1910 a system of nine locks with movable dams was under construction by the Federal government for the purpose of securing a channel 6½ ft. deep at all stages to a point 10 m. above Camden, Arkansas, a distance of 360 m.
During the Civil War, in March and April 1864, Major-General Nathaniel P. Banks conducted a combined military and naval expedition up the Red river in an attempt to open a Federal highway to Texas, but on the 8th of April the vanguard of his army was repulsed with heavy loss at Sabine Cross-Roads by the Confederates under Lieutenant-General Richard Taylor and the expedition was abandoned; the gunboats commanded by D. D. Porter were held above Alexandria by the lowness of the river, but it was flooded by a hurriedly built dam, and they escaped.
See R. B. Marcy and G. B. McClellan, Exploration of the Red River of Louisiana (Washington, 1853), and the annual Reports of the Chief of Engineers of the U.S. Army.
2. The Red river, commonly called the Red River of the North, rises in the lake region of western Minnesota, not far from the headwaters of the Mississippi, flows north between Minnesota and North Dakota, continues northward through the Canadian province of Manitoba, and discharges into Lake Winnipeg. It has cut a gorge 20-50 ft. deep through clay deposits through- out the greater part of its course; it drains a region that is famous for the production of wheat; and much water power has been developed on its tributaries. The United States government has improved its channel from the international boundary to Breckenridge, Minnesota, a distance of 395.5 m., and occasionally the water reaches a height which permits small steamboats to ascend its S.W. branch to Lake Traverse and from there to descend the Minnesota river to the Mississippi.
- The range between low water and high water at Fulton is 35–65 ft.