The city was settled by the French after explorers located the site on Istrouma Bluff in 1699. The strategic importance of the bluff was immediately apparent to the French. The first bluff located upriver from the Mississippi River Delta, it offered natural protection from flooding and disasters such as hurricanes.
The explorers had noticed a number of stripped red cypress trees coated with blood and bird and animal heads. Finding out from the native Indians that these trees designated the boundary lines between the Houma and Bayou Goula tribal hunting grounds: The explorers named the city “le baton rouge” meaning red stick in French.
In 1719 a military post was established in the city, making it a magnet for settlers, and becoming the state capital in1862. The civil war left the city untouched – except for occupation by Union Force – during which time the capital was moved to Shreveport. The capitol was returned to Baton Rouge in 1882.
The Mississippi River was soon being plied by steamboats moving trade goods, settlers and travelers to and through the city causing Baton Rouge to grow and prosper.
Today Baton Rouge still depends upon the Mississippi River for its growth as a major petrochemical production and center. The Technology industry is also a major growth area in both research facilities and production plants. Ocean-going tankers and cargo carriers have replaced steamboats and now ply the river where Baton Rouge enjoys it position as the farthest inland port that accommodates these huge, deep-draft ships.