On the Mississippi - Paddling the Flood Crest from Memphis to Vicksburg

The River butts against the Bluff in Memphis no matter the water level. But for most of the length of the lower Mississippi, the shoreline is constantly changing and at flood levels swells into forests, fields, and back channels creating a no man's land up to 30 miles from levee to levee.

John Ruskey of Quapaw Canoe Company , Hodding Carter and Christopher LaMarca headed out on the Mississippi at the height of the 2011 flood to paddle the River's crest from Memphis to Vicksburg for an upcoming story in "Outside Magazine."

Click HERE for some fascinating observations and photos of their journey.

Steamboat & Money for Beale Street Landing - City Council Approves

City Council voted 9-0 Tuesday to approve a loan of $9M in U.S. Housing and Urban Development funds to the newly formed Great American Steamboat Co. The loan plus $15.5M to be raised by private investors will be used to purchase and refurbish the American Queen steamboat for overnight cruises and to complete the $39M Beale Street Landing project. The newly formed Great American Steamboat Co. will set up their home office in Memphis and expects to repay the City loan from boarding fees and local sales taxes.

WMC-TV has posted the information presented to City Council; click HERE.

Click HERE for coverage by the Commercial Appeal; HERE for coverage in the Daily News.

Flood Walk – Facts to Share

Links to information on past floods, floodplains, levees, and ideas for the future from Saturday's Sunset Flood Walk along Memphis Riverfront & map of Morganza Floodway and Bonnet Carre Spillway (click to enlarge):

  • CNN interview with Sr. VP Conservation for American Rivers talking about how we need to employ means other than the "girdles" and give the river some breathing room. Click HERE.

  • MS River Facts (long version), click HERE.

  • MS River Facts (short version), click HERE.

  • MS River Flood History, click HERE.

  • What is a Floodplain? What does "100 year floodplain" mean? Click HERE.

  • MS River Tributaries Project (info on control structures), click HERE.

  • Old River Control Structures (Morganza Floodway), click HERE, HERE, HERE.

  • Recommended Reading: Rising Tide by John Barry. Click HERE.
  • Waterfront Tours - On Land & On Water

    Eager to see the Memphis riverfront at historic high water levels and learn more about the River?

    By Land

    * Sunset Flood Walk, Sat. May 14, 2011, 6:30 pm. Join Friends for Our Riverfront for a walking tour along the bluff. Great views, so be sure to bring your camera. Come learn about historic floods, the importance of the 100 year floodplain, and Memphis’s unique Cobblestone Landing. Tour will start from Butler Park at 6:30 PM. The park’s entrance is on Tennessee Str. at Butler Ave. in the South Main area, up on the bluff next to the old Tennessee Brewery. Free. For more information contact Sue Williams at 274-0524.

    * Chat with Jimmy Ogle, Thurs. & Fri. (5/12 & 5/13), between 6 pm & sunset. Local historian, Jimmy Ogle, will be on Riverside Drive between Beale and Union to answer questions and share about our River history, events, and flood situation. Free. Commercial Appeal article, click HERE.

    By Water

    * Memphis Riverboats head-out on the Mighty Mississippi every day at 2:30 pm with additional sightseeing cruises at 5 pm on Sat. and Sun. and dinner cruises at 7:30 pm Thurs. - Sun. It's a great way to get on the River and learn the River's history, too. Riverboats board at the the Cobblestone Landing (Monroe and Riverside Dr.). For more info., click HERE.

    Panorama Memphis Waterfront - 2011 Flood Crest

    This fantastic panoramic photograph was taken on May 10, 2011 from the 29th floor of One Commerce Square while the Mississippi River was cresting at 47.87 ft. The water level at Memphis has only been higher one time, in 1937 at 48.7 ft level.

    Photo by PatrickTMullins | +Marketing +Photography + Web Design To zoom in, click HERE.

    BBQ Fest Heads to Dry Land

    High water has riverfront Tom Lee Park partially submerged, and for the 1st time ever, Memphis in May World Champion Barbecue Cooking Contest has had to move to a higher, drier spot. BBQ Fest 2011 will be at the Fairground's new Tiger Lane. Click HERE for more info.

    Update from Corps on Levees

    Design Review Board Stands Up for Restoration of Cobblestone Landing

    Center City Commission Design Review Board unanimously prefers continued access to water and sends RDC back to drawing board on Cobblestone Landing plan.

    Members of the Design Review Board recognized the uniqueness and significance of the historic site and the importance of the Landing's connection to the water. Much of their opposition was to the construction of a barrier wall of riprap along the Landing's shoreline, a design that would alter the dynamic of the waterfront and cut-off access to the water. "It is a Landing," one member stated in summary, and the consensus was that if this is a restoration project the design fails to meet the objective.

    Click HERE for Commercial Appeal coverage by Wayne Risher.


    Flood Walls & Gates - Where? When?

    Vance Lauderdale gives you the answers and history at Memphis Magazine.

    And Why? No one is asking that question today. Here's the floodwall behind the Pyramid with a mark that indicates the 100 year high water mark: 48.7 feet in 1937. Water is at 47.12 feet today and expected to crest at 48 feet on Monday. All those within the 100 year floodplain have been advised by the County and City to be ready to evacuate.

    Click HERE for some aerial flood photographs taken yesterday by Amie Vanderford Photography.

    Good Time to Remember Tom Lee

    It was May 1925, river levels were up, and the American Society of Civil Engineers was holding its Mid-South convention in Memphis. The Corps of Engineers had provided two riverboats for a sightseeing excursion for the engineers and their families south to Cow Island to see how the levees were holding up. On the return trip, one of the boats, the M.E.Norman capsized. No one ever knew the exact cause, but Tom Lee, then 39 years old, spotted the problem, headed back to the calamity, and in his small open boat the Zev rescued 32 survivors. Another 20 survivors swam to the bank. Twenty-three passengers and crewmembers lost their lives.

    Tom Lee was nationally recognized for his bravery and flew to Washington, D.C. to be honored by President Coolidge. Subsequently Lee worked as a City sanitation worker until his retirement in 1948. He died April 1, 1952.

    Tom Lee Park is named in his honor, and the beautiful sculptural depiction of his valiant and brave action is a highlight on the Memphis riverfront.

    Click HERE for some fascinating details.
    Click HERE for coverage by Bill Dries for the "Daily News."


    How to Keep Up With Water Levels

    Mississippi River Stage 42.08 ft at Memphis - 7AM - today. Follow this link for updates on river stages. Click HERE.

    Photos along MS Riverfront by Susan Caldwell on 2011-4-30 when water was at 39.9 feet:

    Harahan Bridge

    Beale Street Landing

    Memphis Cobblestone Landing

    Mud Island River Park

    Southwest side of Mud Island River Park

    Click HERE for more photos taken that day.

    Maps Trace MS River History

    Harold Fisk's beautiful maps of the alluvial valley of the Mississippi River trace our history. They were part of a 1944 report for the Mississippi River Commission and Corps of Engineers. Click HERE to see the series. Memphis area is map #5.

    Aerial photos of Flooding

    Water level now at 40.4 feet and rising. To see some fantastic aerial photos by Brad Taylor & Shane Worley posted on Facebook, click HERE.