Rivers in the Old West
The rivers in the Old West are legend, and as the West was wild, so were its rivers (as were some of its inhabitants). The Old West was populated with a wide array of people, ranging from European immigrants, to home-grown farm-boys seeking their fortune, hustlers, outlaws, and adventurers from almost every continent on the planet. Some of the earliest explorers came up the Arkansas River. The 1st steamboat on that river was the Comet which arrived at Arkansas Post on March 31, 1820. Under the leadership of Capt. Byrne, it made the trip from New Orleans in 8 days.
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Some Legendary Rivers in the Old West
The Red River goes into New Mexico from the Texas Panhandle (though it begins in Colorado). This was a river often used by early settlers and adventurers. The first man to take a steamboat past what was known as the Great Raft (a mass of sunken driftwood, logs and stumps) on the Red River was Ben Milam (who would later die in the Texas/Mexico revolution). He made this trip with his steamboat, Alps, in 1831. In 1835 Capt. Henry Shreve (from whom Shreve sport takes its name), began work clearing the Great Raft, and in 5 years he had opened a channel. It became a never-ending work because every seasonal flood uprooted and carried trees downstream to come snags.
Rivers in the Old West were life lines to the inhabitants
Rivers in the Old West had its problems. Some, like the Red River, was treacherous. Some rivers in the Old West flowed smoothly in many places. The famous trek by Lewis and Clark was begun on the wide, smooth flowing Ohio river, then into the Mississippi River, and the Missouri River. This government team traveled the rivers in the Old West in keel boats. The journey was the beginning of the opening of the West. Later, the rivers in the Old West would become clogged with steamboats, rafts, keel boats, and even canoes.
The rivers in the Old West were our nations first highways into the deeper parts of the American West.
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