Natchitoches, Louisiana

Natchitoches, Louisiana
City of Natchitoches
Nickname: The Destination of Travelers Since 1714
Country United States
State Louisiana
Parish Natchitoches
Elevation 118 ft (36 m)
Coordinates 31°44′35″N 93°05′42″W / 31.74306°N 93.095°W / 31.74306; -93.095
Area 25.1 sq mi (65 km2)
 - land 21.6 sq mi (56 km2)
 - water 3.6 sq mi (9 km2), 14.34%
Population 18,323 (2010)
Density 828.5 / sq mi (319.9 / km2)
Founded 1714
Mayor Wayne McCullen
Timezone CST (UTC-6)
 - summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP code 71457
Area code 318
Location of Natchitoches in Louisiana
Location of Louisiana in the United States
Website: *
Natchitoches City Hall
Memory Lawn Cemetery in Natchitoches

Natchitoches (play /ˈnækətəʃ/ nak-ə-təsh) is a city in and the parish seat of Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, United States.[1] Established in 1714 by Louis Juchereau de St. Denis as part of French Louisiana, the community was named after the Natchitoches Indian tribe. The City of Natchitoches was first incorporated on February 5, 1819. It is the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase. Natchitoches's sister city is Nacogdoches, Texas. The population was 17,865 at the 2000 census. It is the home of Northwestern State University, founded in 1884 as a normal school, for the education of teachers of elementary school students.

Natchitoches is the principal city of the Natchitoches Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Natchitoches Parish. It is within the Cane River National Heritage Area, significant for the contributions of the Cane River Louisiana Créoles.



Early years

Natchitoches was established in 1714 by Louis Juchereau de St. Denis. It is the oldest permanent settlement within the borders of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase.[citation needed] 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.

After the United States' Louisiana Purchase of 1803, migration into the territory increased, and Natchitoches experienced a population boom. Several plantations were built along the Red River. However, the course of the river shifted, bypassing Natchitoches and cutting off its lucrative connection with the Mississippi River. A 33-mile (53 km) lake was left in the river's previous location.

It became known as Cane River Lake. The lake runs through the city’s downtown historic district and Plantation Country. It serves as the spring break training location for numerous crew teams, such as the University of St. Thomas, Kansas State University, University of Kansas, Wichita State University, Murray State University, and Washington University.

Civil War

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, as happened in Alexandria in 1864.

In the spring of 1863, Confederate General Richard Taylor and his men passed through Natchitoches en route to Shreveport. Andrew W. Hyatt, one of Taylor's line officers, wrote in his diary: "reaching the banks of Cane River. . . . We are now on a regular race from the enemy, and are bound for Grand Ecore. . . . " Three days later on May 11, 1863, Hyatt penned: "We have now retreated 280 miles. Natchitoches is quite a 'town,' and the galleries were crowded with pretty women, who waved us a kind reception as we passed through town."[2]

In the vicinity of Natchitoches, 12,556 bales of Confederate cotton were stored. A match factory also opened in the city during the war.[3] Natchitoches often engaged in fund-raising activities to relieve the destitute during the war. This historian John D. Winters observed, "Eggnog parties and other social affairs during the Christmas holiday season lifted the morale of civilians as well as that of the soldiers."[4]

20th century

Natchitoches was the site of the 1973 plane crash that claimed the life of singer Jim Croce. Croce had performed a concert on campus for Northwestern State University students at Prather Coliseum, but was killed less than an hour later in a plane crash headed to Sherman, Texas. The pilot may have suffered a fatal heart attack that interfered with his flying.

In 2005, the cartoonist and historian Pap Dean published Historic Natchitoches: Beauty of the Cane, a study of the history, people, and attractions of the historic city. It is one of the oldest in the state, with Harrisonburg, the seat of Catahoula Parish, being the other original French settlement.[5]


Natchitoches is located at 31°45′15″N 93°5′42″W / 31.75417°N 93.095°W / 31.75417; -93.095 (31.754123, -93.095085)[6] and has an elevation of 118 feet (36.0 m)[7].

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 25.1 square miles (65.1 km²), of which, 21.6 square miles (55.8 km²) of it is land and 3.6 square miles (9.2 km²) of it (14.21%) is water.

A 35-mile (56 km) long lake was formed from a portion of the Red River when it changed course. It is now known as Cane River Lake.

Regional cities and their distance from Natchitoches include:

  • Alexandria, LA 50 Miles
  • Shreveport, LA 70 Miles
  • New Orleans, LA 250 Miles
  • Houston, TX 230 Miles
  • Dallas, TX 255 Miles
  • Little Rock, AR 260 Miles
  • Jackson, MS 230 Miles
  • Monroe, LA 109 Miles
  • Oklahoma City, OK 435 Miles


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.


Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation totals in inches

Weather-wise, Natchitoches lies in a boundary region that separates the plains of Texas from the consistently humid Gulf Coast. This gives Natchitoches summers a heavy dose of 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 also in the area of producing severe thunderstorms, hail, damaging winds, and tornadoes.


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

In the 1970s, Natchitoches experienced an economic downturn that resulted in a sixty-five percent vacancy in the commercial district. However, because of efforts to revitalize the city, vacancy is now about 1 percent.

The Port of Natchitoches—a river port on the Red River--is located off of the east bound part of U.S. Route 84 just outside Natchitoches. The port exports lumber from stockyards onsite, as Forestry is a large industry in the area as well.

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

The Natchitoches National Fish Hatchery is also based here. They handle over 6 species of fish and other wildlife.

The city has to do little to promote its tourism industry, which brings a host of business during the holiday seasons of Christmas and New Year's. The Natchitoches Christmas Festival is a well known celebration of the holidays for locals.

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.

Pecans are a staple of the area with a 400-acre (1.6 km2) pecan orchard located on the old Little Eva Plantation.

Natchitoches is an economic hub for the entire parish of the same name.

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

Natchitoches is the home of the oldest general store in Louisiana, the still operating Kaffie-Frederick, Inc., General Mercantile, located on Front Street.[9] The store was co-founded in 1863 by ancestors of Alexandria businessman and former city commissioner Arnold Jack Rosenthal (1923–2010).


Sign detailing background of Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Natchitoches
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
Overall look at the riverwalk in Natchitoches
Horse-drawn carriage rides are available in the summer in historic Natchitoches.
Restored Fort Saint Jean Baptiste museum on Jefferson Street in Natchitoches
Lasoyne's Meat Pie Restaurant is located near the Natchitoches City Hall.
Antoon's Restaurant is located on the Cane River across from the Bank of Montgomery in Natchitoches.
Downtown Natchitoches with historic buildings, stores, and shops, maintains brick streets.
Alleyway & Patio Restaurant in Natchitoches
Natchitoches Riverwalk facing up to Front Street
Natchitoches Arts Center on Second Street near City Hall
Construction is underway in Natchitoches on the Louisiana Museum and Sports Hall of Fame.

As of the census[10] of 2000, there were 17,865 people, 6,113 households, and 3,631 families residing in the city. The population density was 828.5 people per square mile (319.9/km²). There were 6,731 housing units at an average density of 312.2 per square mile (120.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 43.72% White, 53.00% African American, 0.68% Native American, 0.82% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.68% from other races, and 1.09% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race was 1.30% of the population.

There were 6,113 households out of which 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 non-families. 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 population was spread out with 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 $23,111, and the median income 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 age 65 or over.

National Guard

A Troop 2-108TH CAV is heaquarted in behind the local college and the airport. This unit has 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 element deployed with the 256th Infantry Brigade.


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 lighting festival which is held the first Saturday in December. The lights continue to brighten the Cane River until after New Year's Day. In 2009 the festival celebrated its 83rd year.

Several motion pictures have been filmed in Natchitoches, including Steel Magnolias, The Man in the Moon, The Horse Soldiers, NBC's The Year Without a Santa Claus, The American Standard, as well as a Lifetime Television's series Scarlett.


Though Natchitoches has few multi-story buildings, it has retained much of its historic European-style architecture. 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 plus old brick Front Street. During this process workers removed each brick one by one, numbered them, cleaned them, and then replaced them after utilities, drainage, and foundation were repaired beneath.


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 the 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 eleven national chain hotels, and nearly fifty bed and breakfast inns, including the Steel Magnolia House.

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 Natchitoches meat pie is a regional dish from northern Louisiana. It is one of the official state foods of Louisiana.

The city's tourism center is the downtown river walk. This includes Front Street, which becomes Jefferson at the Northwestern State University end. 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 the 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 also teaches school children how to respect nature and the conservation of nature through its many habitats.

Natchitoches is also home to a branch of the Kisatchie National Forest, a project promoted by the 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 boasts 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 full-size catering kitchen. One question What are some natural resources??



  • Mardi Gras Parade
  • Mardi Gras Magic Festival


  • Blooming on the Bricks Festival
  • Art Along the Bricks Festival
  • Ashland Spring Festival - Ashland
  • Sacred Places Tour
  • Brown Bag Concerts
  • Steak & Burger- benefiting local Boys & Girls Club


  • Jazz/R&B Festival
  • Rebel State Spring Festival
  • American Cemetery Tour
  • State Historic Area
  • Brown Bag Concerts


  • Green Market Festival
  • Cane River Festival
  • Brown Bag Concerts


  • Melrose Arts and Crafts Festival
  • Cane River Green Market
  • Natchez Heritage Festival - Natchez



  • Cane River Green Market
  • Celebration on the Cane
  • Natchitoches / NSU Folk Festival
  • Fourth Of July Fireworks


  • Cane River Zydeco Festival
  • Marthaville Good Ole Days
  • Meat Pie Festival & Triathlon
  • Boogie on the Bricks - Follows every NSU home game
  • River Run- Motorcycle poker run sponsored by Independent Motorcycle Riders Association benefiting local Boys & Girls Club


  • Annual Natchitoches Pilgrimage
  • Smokin’ on the Red
  • Witch Way to Main Street
  • Boogie on the Bricks
  • Celebrity Chef- featuring native cruisine, local eateries and LA chefs, benefiting local Boys & Girls Club


  • Marathon Rowing Championship
  • Festival of Lights (Premiere of the Natchitoches Christmas Festival lights.) (Fest. Est. 1927)
  • Holiday Open House


  • Fireworks Every Saturday Night
  • Barge Parade
  • Christmas Festival
  • Holiday Tour of Homes
  • “Fete Hiver”
  • Christmas in the Park - Rebel State Historic Area
  • New Year's Eve

Health care and medicine

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.


Colleges and universities

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.

Primary and secondary schools

Public schools

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

  • Natchitoches Central High School
  • NSU Middle Laboratory School
  • Weaver Elementary
  • East Natchitoches Elementary
  • George L. Parks Elementary
  • L.P. Vaughn Elementary
  • Natchitoches Magnet School

Private schools

St. Mary's High School is in Natchitoches.


  • Natchitoches Parish Library (Matt DeFord art display on the second and third floors, an art exhibit in the back entrance foyer from the Natchitoches Art Guild & Gallery.)
  • Cammie G. Henry Research Center (Louisiana Books, rare books, NSU Archives, microfims, maps, oral history tapes, archival materials.)
  • Natchitoches Genealogy Library ( French records dating from 1776, conveyances, mortgages, marriages. Natchithoches Parish Census records from 1820 to 1920. International Genealogical Index (IGI) records Natchitoches Times microfilm records from March 1903 to October 1996.

Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts

The Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts was named a Public Elite by Newsweek. * See Article The State of Louisiana administers the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts. The Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts, a boarding school for academically gifted high school students from Louisiana, is located in Natchitoches on the campus of Northwestern State University of Louisiana.

Notable residents

  • H. Welborn Ayres, judge of the Third Judicial District and Second Circuit Court of Appeals from 1942–1975, was born in Ashland in 1900.
  • Victor Bussie, president of the Louisiana AFL-CIO from 1956–1997, was born near Natchitoches in 1919.
  • Ada Jack Carver Snell, short story writer, was born in Natchitoches in 1890.
  • Leopold Caspari, businessman, banker, and member of both houses of the Louisiana State Legislature between 1884 and 1914
  • Joanna Cassidy, Golden Globe winner
  • Kate Chopin, a short story writer and novelist, managed a plantation in Cloutierville south of Natchitoches in the late 19th century for a time after the death of her husband.
  • Robert DeBlieux (1933–2010), the mayor from 1976–1980, is known for his work as an historical preservationist in downtown Natchitoches and the Cane River areas.
  • Jean Doerge, a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from Webster Parish, was born south of Natchitoches in 1937.
  • Caroline Dormon, a naturalist and preservationist, lived in Natchitoches Parish. She was the driving force behind the establishment of the Kisatchie National Forest.
  • George Doherty was a former professional football player who was the head coach of the Northwestern State University Demons from 1972-1974. The athletic offices are named in his honor.
  • Steve Dowden, former American football player
  • Joe Dumars, NBA Detroit
  • Dan Flores, born in Natchitoches in 1948, is an historian of the American West at the University of Montana in Missoula, Montana.
  • Paul Lee Foshee, Sr., a Natchitoches crop duster, served in the Louisiana House from 1960–1964 and the state Senate from 1972-1976.
  • Sylvan Friedman, a farmer and rancher was a member of the Natchitoches Parish Police Jury from 1932–1944, the state House of Representatives from 1944–1952, and the Louisiana State Senate from 1952-1972. NSU named its student union building in his honor.
  • Grits Gresham was a nationally-known sportsman, outdoorsman, author, and host of ABC's The American Sportsman television series from 1966-1979. A noted environmentalist, he resided on Cane River Lake.
  • Robert Harling, a playwright and Hollywood screenwriter (born 1951), is a Natchitoches native. His Steel Magnolias is based on the life and death of his sister. Harling has also written First Wives Club, Evening Star, and Laws of Attraction.
  • Bobby Hebert, American football quarterback; New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame
  • Bishop Presley Hutchens, the Anglican Catholic Church serves at St. Hilda's Anglican Catholic Church.
  • Andrew R. Johnson (1856–1933), State senator from Bienville and Claiborne parishes from 1916–1924 and mayor of Homer, Louisiana, in the 1910s. He named the village of Ashland for Ashland, Wisconsin.
  • Marques Johnson, NBA player for the Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Clippers, and the Golden State Warriors.
  • Donald G. Kelly, Natchitoches attorney who specializes in criminal law and retirement issues. He served in the Louisiana State Senate from 1976-1996.
  • John S. Kyser, president of Northwestern State University from 1954–1966, resided in Natchitoches from 1923 until his death in 1975.[11]
  • Marietta LeBreton was an historian who wrote the centennial history of Northwestern State University (1884–1984).
  • Pat Listach, MLB player for the Milwaukee Brewers and Houston Astros, third base coach of the Washington Nationals.
  • Jimmy D. Long is a former Democratic member of the Louisiana House of Representatives who served from the Natchitoches-based district from 1968-2000. His younger brother, Gerald Long, is a Republican member of the Louisiana State Senate from a six-parish district also based about Natchitoches.
  • James L. McCorkle, Jr., is a retired agricultural historian who taught at NSU from 1966–2003 and is retired in Salem, Oregon.
  • Rickey L. Nowlin and Gerald Long are the first Republicans to represent Natchitoches Parish in the Louisiana House and Louisiana Senate since Reconstruction. They assumed their legislative seats on January 14, 2008. In 2007, Nowlin defeated Joe Sampite, a Democrat who served as mayor of Natchitoches from 1980–2000, for the right to succeed Representative Taylor Townsend, who failed in a Senate race against Gerald Long.
  • John William Payne (1877–1933, sheriff of Natchitoches Parish from 1914–1933, known for tough apprehension of criminals
  • Bob Reese, co-chairman of the Natchitoches Parish Republican Executive Committee, 1968–2004
  • W. Ray Scott (1923–2008) served as mayor of Natchitoches from 1960–1976, during which time he worked to expand and procure university status for Northwestern State University. He also expanded the city water supply from Sibley Lake.
  • Henry Hopkins Sibley (1816–1886) was a Confederate general in the American Civil War who commanded in Louisiana, Texas, and New Mexico.
  • Thomas Taylor Townsend (born 1963). an attorney, served as the Natchitoches Parish state representative from 2000-2008.
  • Trini Triggs (born August 8, 1965) is an American Country music singer who was born and reared in Natchitoches. He holds occasional small concerts on the Cane River.
  • George T. Walker (1913-2011) was an academic officer at NSU during the 1950s; president of the University of Louisiana at Monroe from 1958 to 1976[12]
  • Arthur C. Watson (1909–1984) was a Natchitoches attorney who served in the state House of Representatives from 1940–1944 and later as chairman of the Louisiana Democratic State Central Committee.
  • Eugene P. Watson (1911–1964), brother of Arthur Watson, was the NSU librarian for whom the university library is named.
  • Charlie Tolar

Noted events

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 received numerous New Orleans evacuees due to Hurricane Katrina. Many college students from New Orleans were transferred to Northwestern State University to continue their education.

Steel Magnolias was filmed here, starring Julia Roberts, Sally Field, Daryl Hannah, Shirley MacLaine, Dolly Parton, and Olympia Dukakis, and The Horse Soldiers, starring William Holden and John Wayne.

In 1973, singer-songwriter Jim Croce was killed when his plane crashed as he was leaving the city.

Natchitoches was the site of a gas pipeline explosion in March 1965 that killed 17 people.[13]


  1. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  2. ^ John D. Winters, The Civil War in Louisiana, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1963, ISBN 0-8071-0834-0, p. 235
  3. ^ Winters, pp. 309, 322
  4. ^ Winters, p. 388
  5. ^ "”Publications”". Retrieved August 31, 2009. [dead link]
  6. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  7. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  8. ^ Monthly Averages for Natchitoches.
  9. ^ "Kaffie-Frederick General Mercantile". Retrieved January 7, 2011. 
  10. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  11. ^ "Kyser, John S.". Louisiana Historical Association, A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography ( Retrieved December 27, 2010. 
  12. ^ "George T. Walker". Monroe News Star. Retrieved July 6, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Natchitoches, LA Gas Pipeline Explosion, Mar 1965".,-la-gas-pipeline-explosion,-mar-1965. Retrieved 5 October 2010. 
  • Visitor's Guide of Natchitoches, Louisiana

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