Alexandria, the seat of Rapides Parish, lies on the Red River, 110 miles northwest of Baton Rouge. The location of Alexandria is near a point where rapids once obstructed navigation on the river. The French built a fort in the 1720's to guard the portage around the rapids. A wealthy landowner, Alexander Fulton, laid out the city in 1805 and named it after his daughter.
The city prospered from its river trade and received a city charter in 1832. During the Civil War, Union forces occupied Alexandria. First, they tore down many of the buildings to provide materials with which to dam the river, then they burned the city down. Alexandria was rebuilt following the war and eventually, the rapids were eliminated.
About ten miles north of the city is the Alexandria campus of Louisiana State University. England Air Force Base is 6 miles south.
Important buildings include St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, St. James Episcopal Church, and the city-owned Alexandria Zoological Park.