The Port of Terrebonne is located in Houma about 70 kilometers (43 miles) southwest of the Port of New Orleans in southeastern Louisiana. Terrebonne Parish is Louisiana's second biggest parish in size. Part of the Mississippi River waterway, the Port of Terrebonne is about 116 kilometers (72 miles) southeast of the Port of Iberia. The Port of Terrebonne is lies on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, and the 58-kilometer (36-mile) long Houma Navigation Canal connects it to the Gulf of Mexico. The 2010 US Census reported that almost 112 thousand people lived in Terrebonne Parish.
The Port of Terrebonne's home city, Houma, is a busy center for lumber, seafood, petroleum, natural gas, sugar, and sulfur. As the seat of Terrebonne Parish, the city's government is administered by the Parish government.
Before Europeans arrived in the area that would become the Port of Terrebonne, the Houma Nation of indigenous people inhabited the area. Explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, recorded seeing a village of Houma in 1682, although he did not visit it.
The Houma developed a friendship with Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville, the founder of France's Louisiana colony, in the late 17th Century. That relationship with France continues today. During the 18th Century, the Houma left their original settlements on the Red River to escape tribes friendly with the English and to move closer to the French. As indigenous peoples were pressed by European settlers, many tribes merged into one that is today the United Houma Nation.
By the 1800s, the Houma lived isolated in swamps and pinewoods that were not attractive to white settlers. With conflicts between England, France, and Spain, the Houma found a home in Lafourche-Terrebonne where there reservation remains today.
Terrebonne Parish was created in 1822, and the City of Houma was established in 1834 to be the county seat. Named after the Houma people, the city attracted many French people from New Orleans after the Spanish took control over the area. The Spanish commandant gave land grants to each new arrival in these bayou lands. In 1848, Houma was incorporated as a city.
Another important group of 18th Century settlers were the Acadians, French colonists from Nova Scotia, who became what is known today as the Cajuns. The Acadians selected the future Port of Terrebonne area because it was geographically isolated, free of government control, and rich with natural resources like fertile land, wildlife, and seafood. The Acadians were secluded from the rest of society for many generations, and their heritage is an important part of their modern lives today.
By the time Houma was incorporated, the major economic activities in the future Port of Terrebonne were sugar cane, plantations, fur trading, seafood, and logging. By 1851, Terrebonne Parish was home to 110 plantations. The Port of Terrebonne and the Parish have long looked to natural resources for their wealth. Fish, oysters, crabs, and shrimp have been staples of the local economy. Terrebonne oysters have a reputation for being among the best in the world.
During the American Civil War in 1862, armed citizens of Terrebonne ambushed a group of Union soldiers who were traveling from New Orleans to Houma, killing two of them. Union troops retaliated by arresting many of Houma's citizens. Homes were destroyed, and livestock were seized by the troops.
In the last half of the 19th Century, canals were created between bayous to make travel and trade easier. In 1872, Houma was linked to Scriever by railroad, dramatically increasing trade and travel within and outside Terrebonne Parish. When the Intracoastal Waterway was built in 1923, the canals fell out of use. The Intracoastal Waterway made the Port of Terrebonne and Houma an important center for waterborne trade.
In the late 1920s, oil and gas brought a new era of economic growth to the Port of Terrebonne. Discovery of offshore oil brought huge new industry to the area. The Port of Terrebonne was soon the major gateway for offshore oil service companies in the State of Louisiana.
During World War II, the Lighter-than-Air Blimp Naval Station operated in the Port of Terrebonne as a base for blimps that patrolled the coastline looking for enemy vessels.
In 1961, the Houma Navigational Canal was finished, creating a 48-kilometer (30-mile) link between the Gulf of Mexico and Terrebonne Bay. Oil production, complemented by rich waters, fertile land, and mineral resources, made Houma one of the United States' fastest-growing cities.
By the end of the 1970s, the oil industry was the main focus for Houma and the Port of Terrebonne. Businesses not in oil and gas still depended on the industry for their livelihood. When the oil glut of the 1980s caused a shift to less expensive foreign oil, the economies of the Port of Terrebonne and Houma felt the crunch. Unemployment jumped to almost 25% for a couple of years.
Since those difficult times, the Port of Terrebonne and the City of Houma have learned to diversify. The oil industry remains the most important revenue-generator, but other industries are growing. The parish contributes more than 20% of the State's production of seafood. The medical industry is booming in Terrebonne Parish. Tourism contributes to the economy as well, drawn by the colorful Acadian culture, diverse wildlife, and proximity to New Orleans and other popular Louisiana destinations.