Navigation of the Ouachita - Black river was first authorized in 1871 and consisted of snagging and clearing of the channel.
The Ouachita River originates in Polk County, Arkansas, and flows 510 miles in a southerly direction to Jonesville, Louisiana, where it converges with the Tensas and Little Rivers to form the Black River.
Black River meets the Red River (J. Bennett Johnston Waterway) 41 miles south of Jonesville, about 28½ miles below the mouth of the Black River, the Red River comes to a junction with the Atchafalaya River and the western end of the seven mile long Old River, which historically lined these rivers to the Mississippi River.
The Ouachita-Black Rivers Navigation Project was begun in 1902 and is a 337-mile long waterway.
The navigable area begins in Camden, AR to Jonesville, LA where it converges with the Tensas and Little Rivers to form the Black River.
In 1924 construction was completed on the system of six locks and dams.
By 1984 all of these dams had been replaced by four modern
locks and dams spaced from Calion, Arkansas to Jonesville, Louisiana.
The locks and dams have a lift from 12 feet up to 30 feet, which provides a minimum 9-foot deep and 100-foot wide navigation channel to accommodate barge traffic from the Red River north to Camden, AR.
The Louisiana Field Office, locate in Monroe, LA, manages natural resources, recreation and flood control on the Ouachita-Black Rivers Navigation Project.
Currently the Louisiana Field Office manages 21 recreation areas along the Ouachita-Black Rivers and it’s tributaries, including the Boeuf River, Tensas River, Little River and the control structure at Catahoula Dam.
The first stationary lock and dams were built on the Ouachita from 1902 to 1926, and provided a navigable depth of 6.5 feet from the mouth of Black River in Louisiana to Camden, Arkansas on the Ouachita River, a distance of 351 miles.
There was a total of six locks and dams spaced at intervals along the river from Franklin Shoals Arkansas to Harrisonburg, Louisiana.
The Jonesville and Columbia locks and dams in Louisiana opened to navigation in 1972.
Navigation improvements on the Ouachita River in Arkansas and Louisiana also include 11 bendway cutoffs and 14 bendway widenings.
Fish and wildlife features of the Ouachita-Black navigation project in Louisiana include the Catahoula Diversion Channel and Control Structure, the Little River Closure Dam, and a refuge near Bayou D'Arbonne.
The diversion channel and structure and closure dams, located in the Jonesville Lock and Dam pool southwest of Jonesville, have been constructed and are in operation.
The channel diverts flows from Catahoula Lake into Black River, downstream from the lock and dam. The control structure is used to regulate the flow entering the diversion channel from the lake. The closure dam is located on Little River. These features allow for regulation of stages in the lake to permit its continued use as a resting and feeding area for migratory waterfowl. Upstream from Columbia Lock and Dam within the Columbia pool area,18,000 acres of land along Bayou D'Arbonnehave been acquired for use as a national fish and wildlife refuge.