Red River of the South

Red River
Red River looking east, north of Bonham, Texas:Texas is to the right, Oklahoma is on the left, and the border between the two states runs along the south (right) bank of the river.
Map of the Red River watershed
Native nameBah'hatteno[1]
Other name(s)Rivière Rouge (former French name), Río Colorado (former Spanish name)
CountryUnited States
StatesTexas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana
Physical characteristics
Main sourceHarmon County, Oklahoma
1,535 ft (468 m)
34°34′35″N 99°57′54″W / 34°34′35″N 99°57′54″W / 34.57639; -99.96500
River mouthAtchafalaya River
30 ft (9.1 m)
31°01′10″N 91°44′52″W / 31°01′10″N 91°44′52″W / 31.01944; -91.74778
Length1,360 mi (2,190 km)
  • Location:
    mouth; max and min at Alexandria, LA
  • Minimum rate:
    1,472 cu ft/s (41.7 m3/s)
  • Average rate:
    57,000 cu ft/s (1,600 m3/s)
  • Maximum rate:
    233,000 cu ft/s (6,600 m3/s)
Basin features
Basin size65,595 sq mi (169,890 km2)

The Red River, or sometimes the Red River of the South, is a major river in the southern United States of America.[2] It was named for the red-bed country of its watershed. It is one of several rivers with that name. Although it was once a tributary of the Mississippi River, the Red River is now a tributary of the Atchafalaya River, a distributary of the Mississippi that flows separately into the Gulf of Mexico. It is connected to the Mississippi River by the Old River Control Structure.

The south bank of the Red River formed part of the US–Mexico border from the Adams–Onís Treaty (in force 1821) until the Texas Annexation and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

The Red River is the second-largest river basin in the southern Great Plains.[3] It rises in two branches in the Texas Panhandle and flows east, where it acts as the border between the states of Texas and Oklahoma. It forms a short border between Texas and Arkansas before entering Arkansas, turning south near Fulton, Arkansas, and flowing into Louisiana, where it flows into the Atchafalaya River. The total length of the river is 1,360 miles (2,190 km), with a mean flow of over 57,000 cubic feet per second (1,600 m3/s) at the mouth.[citation needed]



The Red River rises near the edge of the northwestern dip slope of the Llano Estacado mesa[4] in two forks in northern Texas and southwestern Oklahoma. The North Fork Red River meets the southern and largest fork near the TexasOklahoma border. The southern fork, which is about 120 miles (190 km) long, is generally called the Prairie Dog Town Fork. It is formed in Randall County, Texas, near the county seat of Canyon, by the confluence of intermittent Palo Duro Creek and Tierra Blanca Creek.

State Highway No. 78 Bridge at the Red River between Oklahoma and Texas, photographed on the Oklahoma side
Crossing the Red River at the Texas–Oklahoma border from I-35
The Red River took a new channel near Natchitoches, Louisiana, and left behind Cane River Lake.

The Red River turns and flows southeast through Palo Duro Canyon in Palo Duro Canyon State Park at an elevation of 3,440 feet (1,050 m),[3] then past Newlin, Texas, to meet the Oklahoma state line. Past that point, it is generally considered the main stem of the Red River. Near Elmer, Oklahoma, the North Fork finally joins, and the river proceeds to follow a winding course east through one of the most arid parts of the Great Plains, receiving the Wichita River as it passes the city of Wichita Falls. Near Denison, the river exits the eastern end of Lake Texoma, a reservoir formed by the Denison Dam. The lake is also fed by the Washita River from the north.

Point bars, abandoned meander loops, oxbow lakes in Lafayette and Miller counties, Arkansas

After the river flows out of the southeastern end of the lake, it runs generally east towards Arkansas and receives Muddy Boggy Creek before turning southward near Texarkana.

Soon after, the river crosses south into Louisiana. The sister cities of Shreveport and Bossier City were developed on either bank of the river, as were the downriver cities of Alexandria and Pineville. Where it is joined by the Ouachita River, its largest tributary, the river later broadens into a complex network of marshlands surrounding the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers. Its waters eventually discharge into the Atchafalaya River[5] and flow eastward or southward into the Gulf of Mexico.

In 1946, the Red River flood spilled over into Pineville because of insufficient levee height and strength. However, the taller and stronger levee held in Alexandria. Willie E. Kees Jr., the newly elected mayor of Pineville, worked to gain support for the Corps of Engineers to increase the height of the levee on the eastern side of the river to equal that in Alexandria.[6]


Tributaries include the Little Red River, Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River, Salt Fork Red River, North Fork Red River, Pease River, Washita River, Kiamichi River, Little Wichita River, Little River, Sulphur River, Loggy Bayou (through Lake Bistineau and Dorcheat Bayou) as well as the Ouachita River (also known as the Black River at that point) not far (at Acme, Louisiana) from the mouth.

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