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front of the visitor center
Grand Ecore Visitor Center
Closest available address
106 Tauzin Island Road Natchitoches, Louisiana 71457
Open Thursday-Sunday 10:00am-4:00pm
Best time to visit
Grand Ecore Visitor Center is managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers and includes exhibits and displays regarding the Red River Waterway and also the history and nature of the area. The center is situated on an 80 foot bluff that has good views of the Red River and nearby areas. The Corps of Engineers primarily developed the 236 mile waterway in the 1960s to provide a navigable shipping channel from Shreveport to the Mississippi River as well as for flood control.
The Red River has been forever changed by channeling, levees, dams and dredging over the years. A huge log jam once existed in the river, but it was successfully removed in the 1870s. This action opened up more of the river to navigation but also resulted in greater shore erosion and flooding. As a result the US government began a series of projects in 1892 and continuing through the 1960s to essentially change the meandering river into a manmade canal. While this has led to economic benefits such as increased commerce and decreased flooding, the original nature of a free flowing river has been lost. Also, the benefits have not come cheap. In the past 30 years alone, the Corps of Engineers has spent about $2 billion on river control projects.
This was an unplanned visit. There was extra time in downtown Natchitoches prior to a music and fireworks show that night, so the visitor center seemed like a decent choice to burn an hour or two. The exhibits were contemporary in nature and logically arranged. There was a mix in topics as well. History exhibits included both ancient Indian life and more recent US events. A key topic was the US Civil War and related nearby historical sites. Since the visitor center's raison d'être stems from an engineering project, the development, construction and function of the waterway is another primary theme. A few video displays offered an enhancement to the standard signage type displays. These videos focused on historical personalities and river control projects. While the information was cursory, maybe that is the norm for a visitor center for the masses. One can learn a bit about the area and waterway with a visit here, but don't expect a Smithsonian type experience. There was not enough of interest to really recommend a visit, but if you find yourself in in Natchitoches one day with some extra time on your hands, the visitor center can suffice for a brief excursion. Also, a gazebo overlooking the Red River and under some pine trees could be a good spot to relax on a nice day.
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