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Lower Mississippi

River Dispatch

Vol 10 No 5, Friday, May 2, 2014

Announcing:

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Rivergator Exploratory Expedition:

St. Louis to Caruthersville

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Paddling the Big Canoe near Chain of Rocks, St. Louis

May 26 - June 8, 2014

Push off from Columbia Bottoms Boat Ramp (last boat ramp on the Missouri River) down the last three miles of the Missouri River, confluence with the Upper Mississippi River, and continue on through St. Louis and downstream the Middle Mississippi to the Ohio River confluence and onward.

The Middle Miss carves an wide elegant valley in between the Shawnee Hills of Illinois and the Missouri Ozarks. At Cairo Illinois the Ohio River and the Mississippi meet, shake hands and continue on downriver as the Lower Mississippi River. At this point the Mississippi becomes the biggest volume river in North America. We’ll paddle 108 miles of the Lower Miss to Caruthersville with the Kentucky Bluegrass Hills on our left and Missouri Bootheel on our right. American Rivers has added the Mississippi to America’s Most Endangered River 2014 list because of the New Madrid Floodway. At Bessie’s Bend the Mississippi makes a giant 20 mile loop to cover one mile of distance, the biggest and most prominent bend on the entire Mississippi River system (New Madrid at its crown), so big it can be seen from outer space. You can join us for a short portion or the entire expedition. Two weeks on the river including St. Genevieve, Grand Tower, Tower Rock, Cape Girardeau, Trail of Tears, Thebes, Cairo, Hickman, Reelfoot Lake, Bessie’s Bend, and Caruthersville.

By voyageur style canoe. No previous experience necessary, but must enjoy wilderness- style camping and must be willing to paddle! We are reserving at least 4 seats on every segment for writers, photographers and any journalists who will help us share the story about the beautiful and dynamic Mississippi River and the Rivergator Middle/Lower Mississippi River Water Trail describing it!

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The best views you'll ever get of St. Louis and its skyline are from the river!

May 26 - June 8

St. Louis to Caruthersville

Monday, May 26th: Meet 1pm at Columbia Bottoms Boat Ramp (on the Missouri River). Pack your gear into drybags and load the big canoe. Push off around 2pm down the last three miles of the Missouri River. Sites of interest include the Missouri/Mississippi Confluence, Duck Island, Route 66 Bridge, City of St. Louis Waterworks, the I-270 Bridge, and Chain of Rocks. Camp on Mosenthein Island.

Tues May 27: Paddle through St. Louis with the best views you’ve ever had of the Great Arch, LaClede’s Landing, the Stan Musial Veteran’s Memorial Bridge (newest bridge on the Mississippi), Eads Bridge, the McKinley Bridge, East St. Louis, Anheuser Busch Brewery, Jefferson Barracks, JB I-255 Bridge, Meramec River Confluence.

Wed May 28: Herculaneum, Harlow Island, Fort DeChartres

Thurs May 29: St Genevieve, Moro Island, Kaskaskia River, Chester, Rockwood Island

Fri May 30: Tower Rock, Grand Tower, Trail of Tears State Park, Devil’s Island

Sat May 31: Cape Girardeau, Marquette Island, Thebes, Pawnee Hills

Sun June 1: Big Bends of the Middle Miss around Dogtooth Island and Missouri Sister Island, Cairo, Fort Defiance, Mouth of the Ohio River

Mon June 2: Wickliffe, Columbus Belmont, Wolf Island

Tues June 3: Hickman, Is No 8, Reelfoot Lake

Wed June 4: Bessie’s Bend, New Madrid, Kentucky Point

Thurs June 5: Tiptonville, Lee Towhead, Hathaway/Island 14

Fri June 6: Sandy Hook Bar, Caruthersville

Itinerary subject to adjustment depending on wind, water levels and prevailing weather conditions.

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Secret beach and nearby cave at Tower Rock

Rivergator Mileage:

St. Louis to Caruthersville

The Middle Mississippi River is measured upstream from the Ohio-Mississippi Confluence at Cairo Illinois.Lower Mississippi River is measured upstream from the “Head of Passes,” the center of the birdsfoot of the Mississippi Delta, where all the major channels split and drain into the Gulf of Mexico.

----Middle Mississippi River ----

196 Missouri-Mississippi Confluence

190 Chain of Rocks

188 Mosenthien Island

180 Ead’s Bridge/Great Arch

169 Jefferson Barrack’s Bridge

148 Calico island

139 Salt Lake Chute

134 Fort Chartes Island

123 St. Genevieve, MO

122 Moro Island

118 Kaskaskia River

110 Chester, IL

102 Rockwood Island

94 Red Rock Landing

81 Grand Tower, IL

80 Tower Rock, MO

76 Big Muddy River

67 Moccasin Springs

52 Cape Girardeau, MO

44 Thebes, IL

24 Dogtooth Island

14 Missouri Sister Island

0 Fort Defiance/Cairo, IL

----Lower Mississippi River ----

952 Wickliffe, KY

937 Columbus, KY

934 Wolf Island Bar

919 Hickman, KY

911 Chute of Island No. 8

890 New Madrid, MO/Kentucky Point

872 Tiptonville, TN

859 Lee Towhead

855 Hathaway, Island No. 14

846 Caruthersville, MO

307 miles total

The Rivergator: Middle/Lower Mississippi River Water Trail is overseen by the Lower Mississippi River Foundation. Join us in the big canoe for an unforgettable experience on the beautiful river that runs through the heart of America. Visit: www.rivergator.org. Please contact John Ruskey, 662-902-7841 or john@island63.com to reserve your seat, and for more information.

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Including the Mississippi/Ohio River Confluence

From American Rivers:

America’s Most Endangered Rivers For 2014:

Middle Mississippi River: Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky

Threat: Outdated flood management
At risk: Habitat and public safety

The Mississippi River’s ability to spread out into its floodplain is important for fish and wildlife and for protecting downstream communities from floodwaters. Unfortunately, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is proposing to cut off the Mississippi River from one of its last floodplain connections by constructing a new levee at the bottom of the New Madrid Floodway. The Corps should abandon the New Madrid Levee project. If they do not, the Environmental Protection Agency should veto the project.

The River

The great Mississippi River once experienced seasonal floods that spread out over its floodplain, creating a mosaic of backwaters, wetlands, and sloughs. These periodic floods were the driving force behind robust and diverse ecosystems that were home to an amazing array of fish, birds, and wildlife. The Missouri “bootheel”, located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, was once one of the nation’s largest and richest wetland areas.

As people altered and harnessed the Mississippi River to advance navigation and reduce flood damages, these floodplain ecosystems were drained and cut off from the river with levees and other structures. The New Madrid Floodway within the bootheel was also drained for intensive agricultural production.

Despite these modifications, a gap in the bottom of the floodway levee system provides a critically important natural connection that allows the river to sustain vital backwater floodplain habitat, including bottomland hardwood forests that are home to bald cypress, nuttall oak, and tupelo gum. The floodway is critical for migrating ducks, geese, and shorebirds like the golden-plover. It supports a rich and regionally distinctive fishery that includes an important white bass fishery and rare species like the golden topminnow, chain pickerel, and banded pygmy sunfish. The gap in the floodway levee system is the key to supporting this diverse backwater floodplain.

The Threat

The proposed New Madrid Levee project will hurt the Middle Mississippi River by cutting off one of its last floodplain connections

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is proposing to cut off the last connection between the Mississippi River and its natural backwater habitat in the State of Missouri by constructing a new 1,500 foot levee across the gap at the bottom of the New Madrid Floodway. This levee would prevent water from reaching 75,000 acres of floodplain habitat, eliminating the most important spawning and rearing habitat for fish in the middle Mississippi River and destroying habitat that is essential for an array of birds, waterfowl, and mammals.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has repeatedly called upon the Corps to stop this project because it will cause, “dramatic losses of nationally significant fish and wildlife resources that cannot be mitigated,” and will, “greatly diminish rare and unique habitats found in southeast Missouri.” Furthermore, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said the project, “will cause the greatest loss of wetlands functions in EPA Region 7’s history.” Many outside experts agree that the adverse impacts of the project are so significant that they cannot be mitigated, and believe that the project will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for the health of this portion of the Mississippi River.

In addition to the significant and unacceptable harm to fish and wildlife, the proposed levee puts river communities at increased risk by promoting more intense use and development in the New Madrid Floodway, which in turn will make it even more politically difficult to activate the floodway during catastrophic floods. The New Madrid Floodway is used as a relief valve when high water in the Mississippi threatens nearby towns like Cairo, IL. During flooding in 2011, a last minute lawsuit attempted to stop the Corps from taking this important action. When the floodway was finally activated, water levels in the Mississippi River dropped 2.7 feet at Cairo in just 48 hours, sparing the city from potentially devastating flood damage.

The Corps is currently finalizing an Environmental Impact Statement for this fundamentally flawed project that was first dreamt up more than 60 years ago. Cutting the river off from its floodplain would destroy critical fish and wildlife habitat and is an entirely unacceptable practice for modern floodplain management.

What Must Be Done

The New Madrid Floodway Project, as proposed, is so environmentally destructive that it simply should not be built. The Corps should abandon this project by selecting the “no action” alternative in its final EIS. If the Corps refuses to abandon this environmentally devastating project, the Environmental Protection Agency should veto it under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act.

For More information about this project, visit

http://www.americanrivers.org/endangered-rivers/2014-report/middle-mississippi/