Since the founding of New Orleans in 1718, the Mississippi River proved crucial in the city's development as a colonial French and Spanish port. Crossing the river was essential from the outset. The first enslaved Africans brought to the colony during the John Law Company period (1717-1731) were housed directly across from the settlement on the West Bank in what is now Algiers Point. Smallpox patients and others suffering from contagious diseases were quarantined on what was then known as the "Left Bank."
Ferries and skiffs moved goods and people across the river to Algiers. In the early 1800s, city officials awarded steam ferry service contracts to convey passengers and goods on a regular schedule between the two banks. The first regularly scheduled ferry service between Canal Street and Algiers was established in 1827.
Several other public ferry crossings developed as the city spread up- and downriver from its original site. Six ferries served the New Orleans area in the 1930's. Three other ferries continue to serve the metropolitan area today: Chalmette to Lower Coast Algiers; Gretna to Canal Street; and East to West Point-a-la Hache.