Ouachita Parish, Louisiana

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Ouachita Parish (French: Paroisse d'Ouachita) is a parish (population 147,250 as of the 2000 census) located in the U.S. state of Louisiana. The parish seat is Monroe.

Ouachita Parish is part of the Monroe Metropolitan Statistical Area as well as the Monroe–Bastrop Combined Statistical Area.



The parish bears the same name as the Ouachita River, which flows through southern Arkansas and northeastern Louisiana. In 1541, the first Europeans to set foot on the territory that is now Ouachita parish was the expedition of Spanish explorer and conquistador Hernando de Soto. After crossing over onto the west bank of the Mississippi River near the White River, the expedition descended into Louisiana near the junction of the Ouachita and Tensas Rivers to avoid the muddy western banks of the Mississippi River. French settlers arrived in Ouachita Parish around 1720. In 1769, Don Alexander O’Reilly took Ouachita Parish for Spain. A census of the parish was taken and the result was 110 people. In 1785, Don Juan Filhiol established the first European outpost in Louisiana, called Fort Miro, which became a city in 1805. Fort Miro was renamed the Ouachita Post in 1819, sixteen years after the Louisiana Purchase was signed. The Ouachita Post grew so large that it later became the city of Monroe around 1820, which is named for the first powered steamboat to sail the Ouachita River. On March 31, 1807, the Territory of New Orleans was divided into 19 sub-districts. Ouachita Parish was one of these original 19 but was later broken up into eight other parishes (Morehouse, Caldwell, Union, Franklin, Tensas, Madison, East Carroll, and West Carroll). In 1853, Cottonport was formed in the northern part of Trenton. Finally, in 1882, Trenton was incorporated, only to surrender the town’s charter in 1886. In 1883, the first railroad bridge across the Ouachita River was built. In 1916, the Monroe natural gas field was discovered. The field stretched over 500 square miles (1,000 km2) and was estimated to have 6,500,000,000,000 cubic feet (180 km3) of natural gas in it. This is what caused the city of Monroe to be known as the natural gas capital of the world for a time. The town of Sterlington was incorporated in August 1961, and in 1974 the town of Richwood was incorporated.

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