Calcasieu River
The Calcasieu River is a river on the Gulf Coast of southwestern Louisiana
Louisiana is a state located in the southern region of the United States of America. Its capital is Baton Rouge and largest city is New Orleans. Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are local governments equivalent to counties...

, U.S.A.. Approximately 200 mile long, it drains a largely rural area of forests and bayou
A bayou is an American term for a body of water typically found in flat, low-lying areas, and can refer either to an extremely slow-moving stream or river , or to a marshy lake or wetland. The name "bayou" can also refer to creeks that see level changes due to tides and hold brackish water which...

 country, meandering southward to the Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico is a partially landlocked ocean basin largely surrounded by the North American continent and the island of Cuba. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States, on the southwest and south by Mexico, and on the southeast by Cuba. In...

. The name "Calcasieu" comes from the Native American
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

The Atakapan people are a Southeastern culture of Native American tribes who spoke Atakapa and historically lived along the Gulf of Mexico. They called themselves the Ishak, pronounced "ee-SHAK", which translates as "The People". Although the people were decimated by infectious disease after...

 language katkosh, for Eagle, and yok, to cry. Its historical Spanish name was Arroyo Hondo ("Deep Stream").

The Calcasieu rises in Vernon Parish
Vernon Parish, Louisiana
Vernon Parish is a parish located in the U.S. state of Louisiana. The parish seat is Leesville and as of 2000, the population was 52,531....

, north of Leesville
Leesville, Louisiana
Leesville is a city in and the parish seat of Vernon Parish, Louisiana, United States. The population was 6,753 at the 2000 census. It is part of the Fort Polk South Micropolitan Statistical Area. The city is home to the Fort Polk U.S. Army installation...

, and flows initially southeast, passing through the Kisatchie National Forest
Kisatchie National Forest
Kisatchie National Forest, the only National forest in Louisiana, USA, is located in the state's old growth piney hills and hardwood bottoms of seven central and northern parishes. It totals more than of public lands....

 southwest of Alexandria
Alexandria, Louisiana
Alexandria is a city in and the parish seat of Rapides Parish, Louisiana, United States. It lies on the south bank of the Red River in almost the exact geographic center of the state. It is the principal city of the Alexandria metropolitan area which encompasses all of Rapides and Grant parishes....

. It then turns southwest, flowing past Oakdale
Oakdale, Louisiana
Oakdale is a small city in Allen Parish, Louisiana, United States. The population was 8,137 at the 2000 census.Oakdale was founded as "Dunnsville" by William T. Dunn...

 and Lake Charles
Lake Charles, Louisiana
Lake Charles is the fifth-largest incorporated city in the U.S. state of Louisiana, located on Lake Charles, Prien Lake, and the Calcasieu River. Located in Calcasieu Parish, a major cultural, industrial, and educational center in the southwest region of the state, and one of the most important in...

, the largest city on the river. It enters the north end of the brackish Calcasieu Lake
Calcasieu Lake
Calcasieu Lake is a brackish lake located in southwest Louisiana, United States, located mostly within Cameron Parish. The lake is paralleled on its west shore by Louisiana Highway 27 and is located about 17 miles south of Lake Charles, Louisiana....

, an estuary
An estuary is a partly enclosed coastal body of water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea....

 on the Gulf of Mexico approximately 10 miles (16 km) southwest of Lake Charles. The lake, which is referred to by locals as "Big Lake", is connected by a 5 miles (8 km) channel to the gulf on the south end. The lower portion of the river south of Lake Charles is paralleled by a navigable canal which connects to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway
Gulf Intracoastal Waterway
The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway is the portion of the Intracoastal Waterway located along the Gulf Coast of the United States. It is a navigable inland waterway running approximately 1700 kilometers from Carrabelle, Florida, to Brownsville, Texas.The waterway provides a channel with a controlling...


In the early 19th century, the area of present-day Louisiana and Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 west of the Calcasieu and east of the Neches River
Neches River
The Neches River flows for through east Texas to its mouth on Sabine Lake near the Rainbow Bridge. Two major reservoirs, Lake Palestine and B. A. Steinhagen Reservoir are located on the Neches. Several cities are located along the Neches River Basin, including Evadale, Tyler, Lufkin, Silsbee,...

 was disputed between the U.S. and Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

. The dispute arose from differing interpretations of the western boundary of Louisiana under the terms of the Louisiana Purchase
Louisiana Purchase
The Louisiana Purchase was the acquisition by the United States of America of of France's claim to the territory of Louisiana in 1803. The U.S...

. The area became known as Neutral Ground and became a haven for privateer
A privateer is a private person or ship authorized by a government by letters of marque to attack foreign shipping during wartime. Privateering was a way of mobilizing armed ships and sailors without having to spend public money or commit naval officers...

s outside the legal jurisdiction of both nations.

Because the river passes through areas intensive in petroleum
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

 refining and other industries, petrochemical wastes have been found contaminating the river and estuarine environment along the lower Calcasieu River. In 1994 Condea Vista leaked about 47 million pounds of highly carcinogenic ethylene dichloride into the river, and then tried to cover up. Most of it drained into the Gulf.
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