Rene-Robert Cavelier
Sieur de La Salle, French explorer


In 1669, the French explorer Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, became the first European to see the Ohio River. At that time, Shawnee and other Indians lived along its shores. Throughout the 1700's, traders used the river to explore the entire Ohio River Valley. Settlers traveled on the Ohio to the Northwest Territory after that region was established in 1787.

More than 60 steamboats were active on the Ohio by 1820. After the Civil War ended in 1865, the river became a major corridor for the shipment of raw materials and industrial products. During the early 1900's, the steamboats were gradually replaced by powerful tugboats pushing heavy barges.

Flooding along the Ohio often causes heavy damage. Severe floods in 1937, 1945, and 1963 brought great losses of life and property. Since the 1950's, the federal government has worked with the states bordering the river to build 19 dam-canal structures that control most flooding on the Ohio.

Louisiana was named by the French explorer Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle. He traveled down the Mississippi River in 1682, and claimed the entire Mississippi River Valley for France. La Salle named the region Louisiana in honor of the French king, Louis XIV. A nickname for Louisiana is the Pelican State, because of the brown pelicans that were once numerous along the coast of the state. Louisiana is also known as the Bayou State, because of its many bayous (slow-moving inlets or outlets of lakes and rivers).

Contributor: John Edwin Coffman, Ph.D., Former Associate Prof. of Geography, Univ. of Houston.


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