Leaves in the Stream
What are breadth and width
to a river? Increase a channel’s depth,
yet curtail navigation. Obstacles, seen
and unseen, arise. Shallows appear
that did not exist. Who are we
to question rain? The river’s course
was set, yet always in flux,
long before our arrival. Our standards
are but impositions. We are
just leaves in the stream.
The top two photos are of the Missouri River at Jefferson City, Missouri. River levels have been fluctuating at or above flood stage for several weeks. It’s latest crest was yesterday, at 31.8 feet, and was the “ninth largest flood” for this area. This view is of North Jefferson City. It lies within city limits and is across the river (and in another county) from the largest portion of the state capital. It’s predominantly farmland (with some homes) and industrial, and is the location of the city’s airport. The area was evacuated a couple of days ago, and the airport was closed. It was once known as Cedar City, but the flood of 1993 wiped out the small community that existed there, leaving just a couple of homes. Just past the bridge markings in the photo is Noren Access, a city park that includes a 100 foot-long boat ramp. The top of the ramp is about 6 feet underwater. Beyond the submerged ramp is a levee (barely showing behind the trees) that extends for miles and was breached, leaving a 30-40 foot gap. The flat level of water in the distance is a farm field that would be dry, if not for the high water.
Looking back through my photos, it seems I’m only drawn to photograph this section of the river during exceptional conditions, but they show that farm field in the background. Below is a photo of the ice choked river of winter, with a level 25 feet lower and the full boat ramp visible. Below that is an example of the heavy fog that can swallow the river, at times. The last photo is looking across the river as kayakers stop for a rest and check-in during the “Missouri American Water MR340,” an annual 340 mile endurance race that is paddled from Kansas City to St. Charles (near St. Louis) and must be completed within 88 hours.
The bridge markings do not indicate depth. They indicate clearance, as the river is open to barge traffic during shipping season. The river is dredged on a regular basis to maintain a channel with a minimum depth of 9 feet, but flood stage for this section is 23 feet. At that point there is minor flooding along Wears Creek, which extends into the city from the river and past light industry and a couple of homes. The State Capitol and downtown are elevated, but this is a hilly city, and during this flood many of the low-lying parking lots used by state employees were underwater.
We have our extremes. Last week it was tornadoes. For the past month it’s been flooding, with the current levels the highest I’ve seen in my 6 years here. 2013 was pretty close, but the state experienced a drought that crippled farmers just a year before. That’s Missouri.
Graph found at National Weather Service.
(Clicking on each photo will open a tab with a larger view.)