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Rapides Parish, Louisiana
Parish of Rapides
Upper portion of the Rapides Parish Courthouse in Alexandria
Upper portion of the Rapides Parish Courthouse in Alexandria
Flag of Rapides Parish, Louisiana
Location within the U.S. state of Louisiana
Location within the U.S. state of Louisiana
Louisiana's location within the U.S.
Louisiana's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  Louisiana
Region Central Louisiana
Founded 1807
Named for The local river rapids
Parish seat (and largest city) Alexandria
 • Total 3,530 km2 (1,362 sq mi)
 • Land 3,410 km2 (1,318 sq mi)
 • Water 110 km2 (44 sq mi)
 • percentage 8 km2 (3.2 sq mi)
 • Total 131,613
 • Estimate 
 • Density 37.310/km2 (96.63/sq mi)
Time zone UTC-6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
Area code 318
Congressional district 5th
Rapides Parish Courthouse, Alexandria, LA (lower view) IMG 4268
Lower view of the Rapides Parish Courthouse
Main branch, Rapides Parish Library, Alexandria, LA IMG 4318
The main branch of the Rapides Parish Library is located in downtown Alexandria.

Rapides Parish (French: Paroisse des Rapides) is a parish located in the U.S. state of Louisiana. As of the 2010 census, the population was 131,613. The parish seat is Alexandria, which developed along the Red River of the South. Rapides is the French word for "rapids". The parish was created in 1807 after the United States acquired this territory in the Louisiana Purchase.

Rapides Parish is included in the Alexandria metropolitan area, Louisiana.


Jackson Street Bridge atop Red River in Alexandria, LA IMG 1135
Purple Heart Memorial Bridge over the Red River in Alexandria and Pineville

In 1763, the land that is now Rapides Parish became the new home of the Apalachee tribe, who were settled there with the permission of Governor Kerlerec. The Native Americans had come after fleeing the British and their Creek Indian allies from what is now from Leon County, Florida. Many of their descendants remain in Natchitoches Parish.

The first French settler was Vincent Porei, who was granted a small tract of land in July 1764 by the Civil and Military Commander of Natchitoches. Nicolas Etienne Marafret Layssard arrived in December 1766, with the permission of Aubrey and Foucault, to establish a "tar works" in the pineries of Rapides, for naval stores. He was later appointed the first Civil Commander of Rapides Parish. During the 1760s, the area was still a dependency of Natchitoches Parish [AGI, PPC, Legajo 187a, 384-384v].

Alexander Fulton had a Spanish land grant within Rapides Parish in the 1790s, where he laid out the future city of Alexandria in 1805. Rapides Parish was formed in 1807 by the government of the Territory of Orleans.

When the Union occupied Alexandria, elections were held on April 1, 1863, in Rapides Parish to select delegates for a pending state constitutional convention. According to Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks, the election was held at Alexandria "by the request of citizens of the parish of Rapides. No officer or soldier interfered with or had any part whatever in this matter. It was left exclusively to the loyal citizens" in Rapides Parish. The election dates varied within the Federally occupied areas. New Orleans held its contests for delegates on March 28. Marksville and Grand Ecore soon followed. According to the historian John D. Winters, "none of these elections in any way impeded the progress nor materially affected the outcome of the [Union's] Red River campaign.

Parts of Catahoula Parish, Grant Parish, Vernon Parish, and Winn Parish were initially part of Rapides Parish territory, but they eventually separated and obtained land from neighboring parishes.

Though Alexandria is heavily Democratic Rapides Parish as a whole frequently votes Republican in competitive elections. In 2012, Republican Mitt Romney carried the parish with 37,193 votes (64.1 percent), compared to Democrat U.S. President Barack Obama's 20,045 (34.6 percent) tabulation. The 2008 returns in Rapides Parish were similar to those of 2012. U.S. Senator John McCain of Arizona won the parish with 36,611 votes (63.6 percent) to President Obama's 20,127 (35 percent).

With 58.8 percent and 63.8 percent, respectively, George W. Bush carried Rapides Parish in both 2000 and 2004 over the Democrats, Vice President Al Gore and John F. Kerry. The last Democrat to win at the presidential level in Rapides Parish was Bill Clinton, who in 1996 received 23,004 votes (46.1 percent) to Robert J. Dole's 21,548 (43.2 percent). Ross Perot, founder of his Reform Party, received 4,670 ballots (9.4 percent).


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the parish has a total area of 1,362 square miles (3,530 km2), of which 1,318 square miles (3,410 km2) is land and 44 square miles (110 km2) (3.2%) is water. It is the second-largest parish in Louisiana by land area.

Water features

Major highways

  • I-49.svg Interstate 49
  • US 71.svg U.S. Highway 71
  • US 165.svg U.S. Highway 165
  • US 167.svg U.S. Highway 167
  • Louisiana 1.svg Louisiana Highway 1
  • Louisiana 28.svg Louisiana Highway 28

Adjacent parishes

National protected area

  • Kisatchie National Forest (part)

Military installations

  • Camp Beauregard (LA Army National Guard)
  • Esler Airfield (LA Army National Guard)
  • England Air Force Base (defunct)
  • Camp Claiborne (defunct)
  • Camp Livingston (defunct)

National Guard

  • 225th Engineer Brigade


Historical population
Census Pop.
1820 6,065
1830 7,575 24.9%
1840 14,132 86.6%
1850 16,561 17.2%
1860 25,360 53.1%
1870 18,015 −29.0%
1880 23,563 30.8%
1890 27,642 17.3%
1900 39,578 43.2%
1910 44,545 12.5%
1920 59,444 33.4%
1930 65,455 10.1%
1940 73,370 12.1%
1950 90,648 23.5%
1960 111,351 22.8%
1970 118,078 6.0%
1980 135,282 14.6%
1990 131,556 −2.8%
2000 126,337 −4.0%
2010 131,613 4.2%
2019 (est.) 129,648 −1.5%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2019

2020 census

Rapides Parish racial composition
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 76,323 58.7%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 40,261 30.96%
Native American 901 0.69%
Asian 1,805 1.39%
Pacific Islander 33 0.03%
Other/Mixed 5,610 4.31%
Hispanic or Latino 5,090 3.91%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 130,023 people, 48,975 households, and 32,667 families residing in the parish.

2010 census

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 131,613 people living in the parish. 63.3% were White, 25.0% Black or African American, 1.83% Asian, 2.15% Native American, 1.56% of some other race and 1.88% of two or more races. 6.85% were Hispanic or Latino (of any race).



Map of Rapides Parish Louisiana With Municipal Labels
Map of Rapides Parish, with municipal labels



Census-designated place

Other unincorporated communities



Rapides Parish School Board operates public schools.

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