Upper Mississippi River

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The Quad Cities in 2013 taken from an airplane as it took off from Quad City International Airport. In the foreground is Milan, Illinois, Rock Island, Illinois is in the center and Davenport, Iowa is in the back. Image by Farragutful via Wikimedia. (CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED)

The Backbone of America: A New River with the Same Ol’ Bones

The Mississippi River, among many names, is known as “The Backbone of America,” and has played a major role in shaping the lives of the Indigenous people, European colonizers, and others throughout the rest of the nation and the world. The river flows approximately 2,340 miles beginning at its source at Lake Itasca in Clearwater County, Minnesota through the center of the continental United States to 100 miles downstream of New Orleans, Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico. Its tributaries (e.g., the Arkansas River, the Illinois River, the Missouri River, the Ohio River, and the Red River) reach from east and west across much of the United States of America. Prior to the emergence of trains in the late nineteenth century, the Mississippi River served as a major throughway to transport cargo and passengers destined for both domestic destinations and for larger ships where captains would continue their voyage out to ocean and into ports located in other parts of the world.

Fortney Farm in Soldiers Grove. Image courtesy of Tim Hundt

Storying the Floods: Experiments in Feminist Flood Futures

By Caroline Gottschalk Druschke, Margot Higgins, Tamara Dean, Eric G. Booth, and Rebecca Lave. Life in Wisconsin’s Kickapoo River and Coon Creek watersheds, the focus of our Driftless work, has been punctuated by major floods in 2007, 2008, 2016, 2017, and the worst in recorded history in 2018. As flooding becomes more frequent and more severe across these watersheds, community members are working together to re-imagine ways to live well together with worsening floods.

Hand-tinted postcard showing Iowa-Illinois Memorial Bridge over the Mississippi between Bettendorf, Iowa and Moline, Illinois circa 1930-45.

In Quad Cities, Reconnection to the Riverfront Is Well Into Its Fourth Decade

In January 2018, residents of the Quad Cities (Moline and Rock Island, Illinois; Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa) attended an open house exploring possibilities for “new” riverfront land left vacant by the realignment of the I-74 bridge over the Mississippi. Bridge replacements happen all the time, of course, but this meeting signaled two things: first, the continued significance of this particular stretch of the Mississippi as a transportation crossroads, and second, the ongoing vitality of the regional riverfront redevelopment programs, begun out of industrial economic crises over three decades ago.

2015 aerial surveys show Wisconsin's eagle population soars to new record, Photo courtesy of Michele Woodford.

2015 Aerial Surveys Show Wisconsin’s Eagle Population Soars to New Record

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced recently that eagle surveys show a very strong resurgence of nesting pairs. Eagles have recolonized almost every county in the state and, in some areas, have appeared to be near a population maximum. In the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, where the Mississippi River corridor is designated as the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, rebounding eagle populations have been documented through several years’ of intensive survey and scientific measurement. The soaring eagle population is widely understood as a strong indicator of better water quality in the river.

Bdote Field Trip, Minnesota Humanities Center

What We Talk About When We Talk About Place

“Place” is central to much of the important work that happens on or around rivers, yet the term is one of the most commonly used and least thought-about words we know. Shanai Matteson has recently written from her perspective as part of the public/community arts collaborative Works Progress about place, about the vexed and rewarding relationships to and with places, about language, and about the complexities of being fully “here.”