How Deep Is the Red River of the South?

Written by Kyle Glatz
Updated: July 21, 2023
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Key Points

  • The Red River of the South reaches a depth of 90 feet near the Red River Lock and Dam 4 structure.
  • This river’s long name comes from the need to distinguish this Red River from another one that runs up north.
  • The Red River of the South runs for 1,360 miles through Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana, taking a long and winding path before reaching its mouth.

Although the Mississippi River is the longest river in the South, many other long rivers flow through this part of the United States. The Red River of the South is one such river, and it winds its way through four states before reaching the end of the run. So, what’s the deal with this river’s name? How deep is the Red River of the South? Discover the answers to these questions and more throughout this look at an oft-overlooked river!

How Did the River Get Its Name?

The Red River is in the Mississippi drainage basin and is one of two Red Rivers in the nation.

One of the most confusing aspects of the Red River of the South is its name. After all, the name diverges from most other rivers and adds a descriptor to clarify its location. The reason for this addition is that there are two rivers bearing the name ‘Red River’.

The two most significant bodies of water with this name are differentiated by their location. For example, the Red River of the South is in the southern part of North America. Meanwhile, the Red River of the North runs through North Dakota and Minnesota before reaching its mouth in Canada’s Lake Winnipeg. Since the river is located north relative to the southern river, it’s given the added descriptor “of the north.” The different locations of these rivers are used to help people tell them apart to benefit people that do not live near them.

With that settled, we must look at how the river was named ‘Red.’ According to the Texas State Historical Association, the name’s origin comes from its color. The river carries a lot of red soil when it is flooding. As a result, the water appears reddish, so it bears that name. Although its name has changed many times throughout history, some mention of its color has been present in all of them.

Where is the Red River of the South?

Louisiana map

The Red River passes through Shreveport before becoming a headwater of the Atchafalaya River.

©Alexander Lukatskiy/

The Red River of the South is one of the longest rivers that flows through the southern United States. The river’s total length is 1,360 miles, and it has a watershed of 65,590 miles! The river starts at the confluence of the Prairie Dog Town Fork and the North Fork in the Texas panhandle.

The river flows through Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana before reaching its mouth. The Red River of the South ends when it joins water from the Mississippi River to form the headwaters of the  Atchafalaya River. At its mouth, the river has an average discharge of 57,000 cu ft/s.

How Deep is the Red River of the South?

John H. Overton Lock and Dam, Red  River, near Pineville, Louisiana

The river is deepest just upriver of the Coast Guard Station by Red River Lock and Dam Unit 4.

©Judy M Darby/

The Red River of the South is 90 feet deep at its greatest depth. The shallowest part of the river is located along the border between Texas and Oklahoma. Once the river passes into Louisiana, it begins to get much deeper.

The deepest part of the river is located just upriver of the Red River Lock and Dam 4 structure, near the Coast Guard outpost. The river depth plunges from 40 feet upriver of that area to the maximum depth over a short distance.

Other portions of the river with deep measurements are south of the I-20 Red River Bridge, which measures 70 feet deep, and a portion of the river west of Colfax which is 74 feet deep.

Is The Red River of the South the Deepest River in the South?

Drone view of the Mississippi River flowing past the Grand Gulf Nuclear Station

The Mississippi River is the deepest river in the South.

©Justin Wilkens/

No, the Red River of the South is not the deepest in this region. The deepest part of the Red River is about 90 feet near a lock and dam structure. Meanwhile, the Mississippi River goes to a depth of 200 feet near Algiers Point as the river passes through New Orleans. However, the true depth of the water in this area depends on the rainfall levels upstream.  

While close, the Mississippi River is not the deepest in the United States. That honor belongs to the Hudson River that runs through New York and ends between New York and New Jersey in the Upper New York Bay. The Hudson River reaches its greatest depth of 216 feet. The river reaches this depth near Constitution Island and the United States Military Academy.

What Lives Near and In the Red River of the South?

Alligator gar

The Red River is a great place to catch



©Jennifer White Maxwell/

The Red River of the South runs through over 1,300 miles. Along the way, many different animals live along the banks of the river. This includes mammals, reptiles, birds, and more. Among the animals you can expect to see along the river’s run are:

A wealth of biodiversity lives along the shores of the Red River of the South. However, many animals also live within these waters. Some fish that live in the Red River of the South include:

Many different animals and fish live near this river. That fact is part of the allure of the water. The river is not looked at favorably for swimming, though. Some people do swim in this river at certain safe spots, but much of the winding river is not a safe place to go in the water. Still, people take part in various kinds of recreation on and near the water. That includes fishing, boating, and bird watching.

The Red River of the South is a long river that winds through four states. This river’s name, location, headwaters, and mouth all create confusion and require a little bit of explanation. Its headwaters are controversial and ongoing discussions about which fork best represents the start of the river are ongoing. The mouth of the river is just as unique. The Red River of the South comes to an end just as the Mississippi River joins, creating a new headwater for the Atchafalaya River.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Bob Pool/

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About the Author

Kyle Glatz is a writer at A-Z-Animals where his primary focus is on geography and mammals. Kyle has been writing for researching and writing about animals and numerous other topics for 10 years, and he holds a Bachelor's Degree in English and Education from Rowan University. A resident of New Jersey, Kyle enjoys reading, writing, and playing video games.

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