MRC Map of the Big Bend (1880s)

etched map of a very big loop in the Missouri River

Missouri River Commission Map XXXVIII (Detail, reduced to 60%)

In the 1880s the Big Bend was still "Crouded with sand bars," as Clark had noted. The printed matter on the right bank of the east meander-bend identifies Sioux dwellings on the Lower Brule Indian Reservation. The words on the left bank of the river at that point identify homesteads on the Crow Creek Reservation.

The Missouri River Commission was established by Congress in about 1884 to direct a methodical development of control measures to assure a clear channel and consistent minimum depth to facilitate river commerce. But by that time several transcontinental railroads had taken over the shipment of goods and people across the West, and in 1902 the MRC was abolished, leaving as virtually its sole legacy a set of eighty-three beautifully crafted maps of the Missouri from the Mississippi to the Three Forks, drawn from surveys made as early as 1879, and published in 1893.