The Visitor Center is located at Grand Ecore, a small community about four miles north of Natchitoches, Louisiana, and commands a panoramic view from a bluff 80 feet above the Red River. The Visitor Center displays exhibits which educates and informs the public about the Water and the Corps of Engineers’ role in development, preservation, and enhancement of the water resources in the region, as well as the geology, paleontology, and Native American cultures of the region.
Several historic sites are in the area, including the city of Natchitoches, LA recognized as the oldest settlement (1714) in the former Louisiana Purchase. Additionally, Grand Ecore is significant, once belonging to a Frenchman who served as commandant of the garrison at Natchitoches.
Grand Ecore is also known for the role it placed during the Civil War as a Confederate outpost guarding the Red River from Union advancement. Exhibits and outdoor interpretive areas highlight these activities along the river and adjacent areas. An interactive video highlights prominent individuals who helped shape and develop Natchitoches and the Red River Basin.
The J. Bennett Johnston Waterway extends 236 miles from Shreveport, Louisiana, to the Mississippi River and provides navigation, flood damage reduction, ecosystem restoration benefits and numerous recreational opportunities.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Red River Waterway Commission have partnered together since the mid-1960’s to make the J. Bennett Johnston Waterway navigation and recreation project a reality.