VICKSBURG, Miss. (WJTV) – You would have though this story was about something rare, but this is the second autumn in a row that the Mississippi River has been low. I thought it was nearly dry last year, but we’ve topped that.
We’re used to seeing tow boats and their rafts of barges ridding unobstructed, majestically atop the mile-wide waters of the Mississippi River. But we’ve been taken aback somewhat to see the mighty flotillas instead snaking their way through channels cut between sand bar cliffs and sunbaked-dry mud flats.
This is a rare sight on the Mighty Mississippi to see water levels this low, record low levels in lots of places. Close enough to records in others, that for all practical purposes, this is as low as most folks can remember the river ever being.
All of this sand and gravel is usually under tons of water. Now with it exposed, what’s left of the Mississippi looks like a mirage shimmering in a desert somewhere instead of the master of the wetlands where is normally flows.
Lots of people want to go explore the exposed bottom to see what they can find. A Civil War mortar at Grand Gulf Park is a low water find from when the Mississippi was low decades ago. But mostly, what’s been river-bottom-brought-to-light is sand. Glacier-size mounds of sand and more sand and gravel bars. In the gravel, there are occasional ice-age fossils. Some rare ones, but way more just plain ole rocks.
To take a boat ride in slips and channels where normally there is only a solid sheet of water about 20 to 50 feet above where we are now is surreal, or to stand on the bottom this far from the bank is unheard of in the Mississippi.
Drive to the river front in Natchez or Grand Gulf Park or Vicksburg or Greenville and see how low the river is for yourself if you have a chance. Take a picture and print it, because in no time at all, once the rains start again, you won’t believe the Mississippi ever got this dry.
The experts said if you want to explore the exposed river bottom, do not go by yourself. Even the sand and gravel bars can be dangerous.