The Great River Historic Loop
In the 1930s, when F.D.R’s New Deal was adopted, trying successfully and quell the Great Depression, one of its key components was transportation. From highways to bridges, the United States’ navigational systems were updated and improved, creating jobs for the unemployed. The lesser famous changes to transportation happened on bodies of water, including the Mississippi River.
Navigating the river proved to be perilous. Lacking a consistently deep enough channel, the depth and width of the channel ebbed and changed with the flow of the river, making its navigation both dangerous and tedious. The river had claimed many steamboats and cargo was lost, along with numerous lives.
The Army Corp of Engineers, under direct orders on the United States government, developed a system of locks and dams that would create pools of water that were mile long. They also began dredging the river, to create a 9 foot deep channel that was no less than 400 feet wide. This created a series of steps that boats could either climb up or descend down, making the river more hospitable to river travel and commerce. This changed the 670 miles of river that runs between Minneapolis-St. Paul and St. Louis. The river’s natural 3,537,600 feet of river only changed its depth 1 percent per foot. The locks and dams were never built with the concept of controlling flood waters. They were quite simply put there to manage river travel. Modern day adaptions and uses do control heavy rains, though. The dams allow control of water as it moves downstream, helping to control flood waters, when they come.
Located on this northern portion of the Mississippi’s path, is an area called “The Great River Historic Loop”. This area along the lower portion of the Mississippi’s Pool 19 rambles between Illinois and Iowa. Three communities act as the hubs, with great scenic views and amazing historical sites available to tour.
The City of Fort Madison, which is arguably the most historic, is the location of the 1st United States Military outpost. This outpost has been reconstructed and acts as one of the Great River Road’s Interpretive Centers. This quaint Iowa community is also home to numerous National Park Service Historic locations. With interesting locations also available in Illinois that are easily accessible via the Fort Madison Swing Span Bridge, come enjoy the location where Iowa first began.