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Pat Middleton is the founder/publisher of the Mississippi River Home Page at www.greatriver.com and Great River Publishing which has produced quality river heritage and natural history books since 1987.

Flooding of 2019 Now Compared to 1993

I am beginning to relive some of the trauma of life along the Middle Mississippi Mississippi during 1993. Valmayer, Illinois, is back in the news as the community works desparately to fill 25,000 sandbags, and flooding at the confluence of the Missouri and the Mississippi near St. Louis has caused widespread flooding. During 1993, which closed down commercial shipping on the river for many months, I traveled the river frequently. ALWAYS it was stomach-wrenching!

The Flood of 2019 has now been ongoing some 82 days… since MARCH for folks in the Middle Mississippi. As we watch the current flood peaking in the next week, and hear about “levee boils” and breaks in the levees, it is worth noting that in 1993, the first dam did not burst until June 20th in Wisconsin. It was August 2 before the Mississippi crested at 49.7 feet in St. Louis. Today, rains still fall from Oklahoma to Louisiana, impacting both the Missouri and the Lower Mississippi Rivers. 2019 has been a record flood in terms of the time it has been affecting those who live along the Mississippi and its tributaries.

First a Chronology of the Flood of 1993, compiled by Pat Middleton, Greatriver.com  

1993 Mississippi Flood CHRONOLOGY

 March 10
The National Weather Service predicts below normal precipitation for the summer: “but above average rainfall could mean flooding, given soil saturation, spring snow depths, and normal spring rains.”
 June 10
The first 8” rainstorms begin in Dakotas, Wisconsin and Minnesota June 20The first dam bursts, submerging 100 homes to their rooftops on the Black River in Western Wisconsin. The upper 200 miles of the Mississippi River are closed to river traffic. Locks and Dams are not operating.
July 5
The bridge at Keokuk closes.
 July 10
The bridge closes at Fort Madison, Iowa, which has experienced rain for 54 of 58 days.  830 miles of Mississippi River are closed to boat traffic between Cairo, Illinois and St. Paul, Minnesota. Over 100 rivers feeding into the Mississippi River flood by July 14.  Unprecedented high-water on the Missouri River, Des Moines River, Illinois, Iowa, Skunk, Rock and Raccoon rivers (all tributaries of the Mississippi River) promote the massive flooding of the Mississippi River.
July 16
The last Quincy, Illinois, bridge is closed, leaving no bridge between Alton, Illinois and Burlington, Iowa. The Mississippi River is flooded to seven miles inland.
July 24
The Mississippi River at Quincy crests at a record 32 feet.
August 2
The Mississippi River crests at 49.7 feet in St. Louis, Missouri. Eleven times the volume of Niagara Falls is flowing under Eads Bridge; enough to fill Busch stadium every 65 seconds.
August 24
The Mississippi River locks reopen to commercial river traffic.
August 30
The Des Moines River floods again, after another 10 inches of rain falls.  The Mississippi River stays open.

 Sandbags and Stuff
 (Statistics collected from various regional newspaper sources.)
These stats offer a base for comparison as states come out for the Flood of 2019.

  • Estimated that two truckloads of sand (a little less than fifty tons) will fill 4000 sandbags.
  • More than 26.5 million sandbags were used in towns along the Mississippi River during the Flood of 1993
  • Approximately 927 million pounds of sand was used to fill those sandbags
  • Homeowners had to fill their own sandbags
  • In all, 150 primary and secondary levees failed during the summer.
  • 12 billion dollars in damages
  • 48 deaths
  • nine states involved
  • 1 inch of water on an acre of land equals 27,143 gallons.

 

 

Good Fun Presenting to Preschoolers!

pat in Buckskin at school    Rich and I had great fun recently presenting as our 1830s characters to the Congregational Preschool in La Crosse!
As “Mrs. Phelps, I talked about my life in wild Iowa and displayed furs traded by members of the Keokuk tribe… fox, mink, beaver, deer, and, for fun, a Kangaroo!

“Old John” found an avid audience for his bird calls, clam shells, and turtle skeleton. Fun for Everyone!!

     “We liked the bird noises.”  “The animal claws were neat!” “I liked the bunny purse.” “The skins were so soft!” “We liked looking at shells.”

Eagle Report from Prairie du Chien…Pelicans too!

Thank you, Dennis, for a great report on where to see eagles in PDC!

Last evening there were over 200 Bald Eagles roosting in the normal
migration roost site near the Barn Restaurant north of Prairie du Chien
on Cty Rd K.  This roost is in the tree line west of the dry docked tow
boat south of the restaurant.  Very little open water was present for
feeding activity.  The small spring and open water at the Winneshiek
Marina had 12 White Pelicans that were feeding on the few dead shad seen
floating at that location. With the expected rise in the Mississippi
River water level, because of rain and snow melt, open water should be
present around the edges of Gremore Lake.  The water level was at 9.5
feet Wed. This morning it is at 11 feet and is expected to go to 17 feet
by Tues or Wed.  Water goes over the Ambro Road on the north side of
Gremore Lake at 13.4 feet.  With that amount and volume of water river
ice will be moved, or at least raised .  More open water where eagles
can feed on dead shad will be present.   Other sloughs in and around
Prairie du Chien are starting to open as well.  If the eagles and
pelicans move to Gremore Lake as they have in the past the best location
to see the birds is from the riverside parking lot of the Crooked Oar
Bar and Restaurant.  In the past 3 years over 500 eagles were seen on
and near Gremore Lake during the migration stop over they make during
mid-March.

Sandhills in the Valley, March 14, 2019

Every year the day arrives when I can say “spring has sprung in the valley,” Today was that day! 49 degrees. Sandhill cranes, redwing blackbirds, Canada geese, a pair of trumpeters, a turkey vulture, a Valley awash in snow melt.  While it seems late compared to recent arrival dates, a quick review of past Sandhill arrival dates shows that the cranes arrived right on schedule.

March 15, 2009  “Bitter cold night as late as 03/13/09. So cranes waited until we hit the 50 degree mark two days later.
March 12, 2008 “3 Sandhill cranes fly over Goose Island near La Crosse.
March 13, 2008  A Single crane flies, calling, over Coon Creek near Stoddard.   Lots of melting snow in the valley. Temp of 56.7 degrees. ”                           

March 11, 2007 “Sandhill Cranes on the islands off Goose Island Park south of La Crosse. Temps in upper 40s, two weeks after record snowfalls in Western Wisconsin, so lots of snow on the ground. March 12 the cranes are reported along Coon Creek and other valleys off the Upper Mississippi River.”                               

Feb 23, 2005  (a good two weeks earlier than normal!)
March 15, 2003
March 13, 2002
March 13, 2001
    March 16, 1999
March 1, 1998
March 10, 1997
March 13, 1996
March 18, 1993
April 4, 1992
March 9, 1988
March 17, 1987

 

 

Sandhill Cranes Seem to Have Arrived!…. I think!

IMG_0189 Well, this is a first! I’m starting to hear that folks south of La Crosse are hearing Sandhill Cranes… but normally, I don’t release such reports until I confirm for myself that nesting cranes have moved in.

This year, there have been a number of interesting Sandhill Crane reports. So far, I’ve heard of 1) a group of 6 or so cranes who spent the whole winter in Wisconsin 2) cranes gathering in Madison by March 1, and finally a phone call that cranes were calling along Coon Creek south of La Crosse by March 4. But it’s been like -12 degrees, and the few minutes I could stand outside, didn’t happen to be the moments that cranes were calling.  So yes, I think they are back right on time this year. We should all be seeing them as temps warm up this next week! Once the ice begins to break up (not happening yet) Tundra Swans should be moving in.

The Story Behind the Tradition of an Annual Christmas Bird Count! Dead Birds and Christmas Joy…Huh?!

So what possessed Victorians to send Christmas and other greetings with illustrations of dead birds? One such card reads, “Sweet messenger of calm decays in peace Divine.”

image

It may hark back to an archaic English celebration of St. Stephens Feast Day, on Dec 26, when folks went out and killed a robin… or a wren… and saved the feathers for good luck. Often young boys in the village would visit homes and exchange feathers for a treat!

During medieval times, Dec 26 was the only day when a wren, considered sacred, could be killed. In fact, “King Wren” was paraded through the village in its death box…  which may actually date back further to a Druid tradition when the priest-king of the tribe was sacrificed to avert disaster for the tribe. Over time, English robins replaced the wren as the symbol.

But were the Victorians really connecting dead birds to tribal druid kings? According to Chan Robbins from an Audubon Science video on Vimeo, another Christmas tradition evolved in New England before the turn of the century which involved birds and small mammals.

The townsmen on Christmas Day engaged in a holiday tradition known as the Christmas “Side Hunt”: They would choose sides and go afield with their guns to shoot as many birds and species as they could that afternoon. The resultant pile of feathered (and furred) quarry were sorted by species and counted. The team which had shot the most, won.

Conservation was in its beginning stages around in that era, and many observers and scientists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations. Beginning on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman, an early officer in the nascent Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition-a “Christmas Bird Census”-that would count birds during the holidays rather than hunt them.

So began the Christmas Bird Count. Thanks to the inspiration of Chapman and the enthusiasm of twenty-seven dedicated birders, twenty-five Christmas Bird Counts were held that day. Those original 27 Christmas Bird Counters tallied around 90 species on all the counts combined. So there is the answer to why we have an annual bird count in the middle of our northern winter!

christmasrobin

English robins continue to festoon modern Christmas cards, though they are alive and nestled among poinsiettas and berries!!

With that, I would like to wish all of you a Very Merry Christmas season!

Pat

New Kindle Versions of our Most Popular Steamboat Book…and a Little Something Extra!

If your favorite River Buff has become a Kindle fan, we now have the following NEW Kindle Editions available for Pre-order for Christmas gifting this year!

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“Treasure Hunting” has been one of our most requested river topics through the years. Pirates, military trails, payroll caches, old maps and steamboat wrecks have all left tales of sudden death and unrecovered treasures. In the first of our Kindle “INSIGHT Series” we  have collected a number of our previously published favorite treasure hunting stories, how-tos, and resources available to the Treasure Prospector here on the upper Mississippi River.

One Man’s Treasure” is now available for pre-order in the Kindle Store. PRE-ORDER RIGHT HERE, now, just $2.99!

bright Come Hell Cover VOL 1 Kindle
Our ever-popular steamboat anthology, COME HELL OR HIGH WATER by Michael Gillespie is newly available as a quality 2-Volume KINDLE edition. Filled with historic photos, witty commentary, footnotes, bibliography, Glossary and fascinating river facts and stories. Each Volume is purchased separately. 

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La Crosse Area Plans for Christmas Bird Count 2018

child with chickadee winterThe La Crosse Audubon group will be again sponsor The La Crosse Area Christmas Bird Count on Saturday, December 15th. Birders who want to participate, can contact Dan Jackson <DanJackson@lbwhite.com>

The La Crosse Area CBC is centered on the La Crosse County Courthouse and extends north to County OT, south to the southern tip of Goose Island, west to Hokah, MN, and east past Barre Mills. (See a map at: http://www.couleeaudubon.org/CBC_LaCrosse.pdf). If anyone lives within the count circle and isn’t available to help with a section, we can also use your help by having you count birds at your own feeder.

The annual Christmas bird count reminds me of the little research I did a few years past into why so many old post cards featured a dead bird. Interesting story which I will relate shortly!!!image image