You see some strange fishing rigs on Lake D’Arbonne this time of year, but there’s one boat hitting the lake this week that should really get your attention. No trolling motor. No four-stroke outboard. No Humminbird Helix 12.
And while they won’t take you fishing, you should come go aboard for a few minutes and check it out. If you’ve got kids, you shouldn’t miss it! Fish or no fish.
It’s a historical re-enactment of the 1800’s Hunter and Dunbar Expedition which came directly through Union Parish up the Ouachita River back in 1802. Only my oldest fishing buddies have first-hand memories of the event. Seriously, if you want to see a cool ship and hear some local history at the same time, make plans to be there.
The re-enactment will be repeated in 30 minute programs from noon until 5 p.m. on Ramp Road on Hwy. 33 Thursday afternoon.
It’s all part of National Library Week, the Union Parish Library is celebrating the 2018 National Theme “Libraries Lead” by bringing to Union Parish the Arkansas historical re-enactors of the Hunter Dunbar Exhibition here. You should expect no less from local librarian Stephanie Herrmann, who is always working hard to bring the best of the world of reading and the outdoors to the area.
A brief history of Hunter & Dunbar Expedition
The Lewis and Clark Expedition left St. Louis, Missouri on May 14, 1804, on what would prove to be a 8,000 mile journey, lasting two years and four months . On May 27, 1804, George Hunter, along with his son George H., left their home in Philadelphia and traveled to Pittsburgh, where they supervised the building of a boat for the expedition up the Ouachita River. Mr. Hunter and his son would not return home to Philadelphia until April 1, 1805 , and would travel almost 7,000 miles in accomplishing the Ouachita River exploration.
The boat built for the expedition was fifty feet long and eight feet wide. It was equipped with a sail and fitted with oars for rowing. George Hunter and his son sailed from Pittsburgh on June 16, 1804 to begin their journey to the Ouachita. They sailed down the Ohio and then the Mississippi river to New Orleans, where additions were made to the boat in preparation for the journey up the Ouachita. Mr. Hunter was given charge over twelve Federal soldiers and a sergeant from the Garrison in New Orleans to row the boat, provide general help and be protective escorts for the expedition.
They departed New Orleans and sailed back up the Mississippi river to St. Catherine’s Creek near Natchez. where Mr. Dunbar, along with his servant, joined the expedition on October 16, 1804. The expedition traveled down the Mississippi, entering the Red river at its mouth, and then up the Black river to the mouth of the Ouachita. They reached the mouth of the Ouachita on October 23, 1804, having traveled a distance of 150 miles from St. Catherine’s creek.
The expedition officially started up the Ouachita River on October 24, 1804, but the pace of the expedition would prove to be a slow process due to the size of their boat. The Ouachita was very similar to a mountain stream in 1804, and there were very few continuous spans of deep water that that would accommodate their boat, instead, the river was comprised of intermittent shallow rock shoals, sand bars and gravel bars.
The only time that a boat of the size used by the expedition could have traveled the Ouachita at ease would have been during high water, normally found in springtime.
There were other obstacles in the river that also hindered their progress. High banks found intermittently along the Ouachita continuously eroded, causing huge portions of ground to fall into the river. This erosion carried with it entire trees, filling the river with earth, logs and limbs, making passage extremely difficult. Also, logs and limbs swept down the river in high water, formed barriers of debris across the river that were, at times, almost impossible to pass.
The expedition covered fourteen miles of the river on October 24th. This distance would prove to be the best day’s average on their trip up the river. The next three days would find the expedition making a total of only 8 miles. Mr. Dunbar wrote of their effort in going those few miles: “The water was so shallow on the gravel bars, that the soldiers had to dig a trench through the gravel and mud as wide as our boat and deep enough to pull the boat through. Some trenches were as long as 120 feet. In many areas ropes with block and tackle were tied to trees to help in pulling the boat through the trenches, where trees were not close enough, steel spikes were driven into the river bed to secure the ropes for pulling the boat.”
The Hunter and Dunbar expedition was officially ended on February 8, 1805, as Mr. Hunter wrote: “We arrived at New Orleans, where I delivered the boat to the Commanding Officer at the Garrison. The same day paraded all the men and the sergeant, who were all in good health, before the Commander. The Commander gave them three days Holiday to rest themselves”.
For more information, check out the special event Facebook page: