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    Cane River

    National Heritage Area Louisiana

Nature & Science

Children in forest, Photo by John Lees
Natural History

Louisiana is within the Gulf Coastal Plain and is at the end of the extensive Mississippi River system, which drains more than 40% of the continental United States.  Natchitoches Parish, in northwestern Louisiana, is part of the greater Red River Valley.
School children in forest, Photo by John Lees
 
Antique Hay Baler operator demonstrates how to make a bale of hay for visitors at the Tractor Event at Oakland Plantation, Photo by NPS
Good Soil, Good Farmland

The soils that predominate in the Cane River corridor—Roxana, Gallion, Moreland, Latanier, and Armistead—are considered prime farmland.  Based on the Department of Agriculture definition, these soils are best suited to producing food, feed, forage, fiber, and oilseed crops.  The red coloring of the soils in the region gave the mighty Red River both its name and its rusty hue.
The agricultural fertility of the soils long played a major role in the region’s development.  Soon after the French arrived and constructed Fort St. Jean Baptiste, settlers began clearing the fertile floodplains along the Red River.  They laid out their plantations using the French arpent land tenure system—long narrow lots that fronted on and ran perpendicular from the river to the back bayous.  Plantation owners acquired many of these arpents to create their large landholdings.  They located their plantation homes along the river, set back enough to provide views of the fields, orchards, agricultural buildings, and of course the river.
Photo by NPS
 
Small flock of Cow Birds dot the landscape within the Heritage Area.
Vegetation and Wildlife

Like all of Louisiana, the Cane River region is rich in flora and fauna.  The following lists demonstrate some of the ecological variety found in this area.  The lists are not meant to be comprehensive—they are designed to give a general overview of the plants and animals found in the region.
Photo by NPS
 
YCC workers clearing brush at Oakland Plantation, Photo by NPS
Agricultural Vegetation

Large and small farming operations have sustained this region for nearly three centuries.  A variety of vegetation can be found on farms, although cotton was “king” for much of the region’s history.

Pecan orchards
Cattle pastures
Bermuda Grass
Pensacola bahiagrass
Tall fescue
White clover
Cultivated Crops
Cotton
Corn
Soybeans
Grain sorghum
Photo by NPS
 
Magnolia Tree and Fence, Photo by NPS
Residential Trees

Historically and in the present, plantation homes along Cane River are characterized by majestic oak alleès and fragrant, flowering magnolias.  The trees listed below are common near houses large and small in the region.

Live oaks
Osage orange
Southern magnolia
Catalpa
Japanese magnolia
Crepe myrtle
Chinaberry
Plum
Jujube
Photo by NPS
 
Large catus plant
Bottomland Hardwoods

The native bottomland hardwoods and wooded backswamps represent only a small fraction of what once grew within the river valley.  Today, less than 10,000 wooded acres remain in the lowlands along the river.  The recent establishment of the Red River National Wildlife Refuge will contribute to future conservation of wooded bottomlands.

Water oak
Willow oak
Swamp privet
Water locust
Honey locust
Bitter pecan
Photo by NPS

Did You Know?

Slave/tenant quarters at Cane River Creole National Historical Park, Magnolia Unit, Photo by John Lees

On November 4, 1994, the United States Congress acknowledged the special qualities of this region by creating Cane River National Heritage Area and Cane River Creole National Historical Park. More...