The Big Muddy Joins the Mighty Miss

Today's Confluence

To see labels, point to the image.

Confluence, Missouri and Mississippi Rivers

© 2000 Airphoto, Jim Wark. All rights reserved.

The MIssouri meets the MIssissippi—then and now

Map comparing Missouri-Mississippi confluence, 1804 and today

The Missouri River1 still contributes its tint, and something of its personality, to the Mississippi a few miles north of St. Louis. It curves around the point called Columbia Bottom with a flourish, nuzzles past two faintly discernable wing dams, embraces a small island with a seasonal slough, and yields itself to the Mississippi. Diesel-powered towboats drive long strings of barges back and forth between Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and some begin up the Missouri as far as Sioux City, Iowa. Cargoes include petroleum and related products, coal and coke, iron and steel, chemicals, grain, sand and gravel, and sulfur.

Dimly visible near the corner at lower right, almost opposite the debouchment of the Missouri, is the mouth of the Cahokia Creek Diversion Channel, where an interpretive center is under construction (beginning in the summer of 2001) at the Lewis and Clark State Historic Site.

Wood River, which lent its name to the Corps of Discovery's cantonment of the winter of 1803-1804, is out of sight, somewhere at upper right.

The recent history of its riverine perigrinations can more or less clearly be read in the landforms and riparian vegetation evident in Jim Wark's photograph. The confluence today is thought to be several miles south of where it was in 1804, and a mile or two to the east.

Compare this view with a detail from Clark's map of 1814, and the corresponding location from the Missouri River Commission map.

  • 1. Nicknamed Big Muddy, the Missouri River here should not be confused with Big Muddy Creek, which enters the Missouri River a few miles upstream from Culbertson, Montana. That's the stream "of a yellowish Colour" which, on April 29, 1805, Clark named "Martha's." or "Marthey's river in honor to the Selebrated M.F"—though nothing else is known about her.