Cruising The Mighty Mississippi River
2 Jul 2009
|From Tom Sawyer’s Mississippi River RV Park – West Memphis, AR
Today, we made our final trip into Memphis for the purpose of sightseeing and took a ride down the Mighty Mississippi River on the Island Queen riverboat. She was so named because of the role the riverboats were to have in the development of Mud Island. The vessel is 100 feet long and has 3 decks, one of which is enclosed, another completely covered and the top deck partially covered.
The cruise was 90 minutes long and covered between 7 to 10 miles. But unlike other boat rides, this one had a “Riverlorian” giving you the history and facts about the river and what was along the banks you were passing for the entire 90 minutes. Very, very interesting and it made for a relaxing and informative afternoon.
A main point of interest in the literature we had read about the cruises were the 4 bridges that cross the Mississippi River from Arkansas to Memphis and the history behind each. Three of these bridges are literally side by side to one another with the fourth one being about two miles upriver. The cruise took the Island Queen right under the three bridges in close proximity, but the fourth was only seen at a distance.
Of the three close to each other the Frisco Bridge is the oldest of the four bridges being built in 1892. When built it had to have at least a 75 foot clearance and a main span of more than 770 feet to accommodate a main river channel. It had to be available to carry rail, vehicular and pedestrian traffic all on the same level. This was accomplished and today it is listed as a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. The BNSF Railway still utilizes the bridge to cross the Mississippi River today.
The second bridge in the threesome is the Harahan Bridge. It is a cantilever bridge carrying 2 rail lines today. However from 1917 to 1947 it also accommodated vehicular traffic. Today it is owned by the Union Pacific Railroad and is still used by them.
The newest of the three bridges is the Memphis-Arkansas Bridge built in 1949. It is also known as the “Old Bridge” as the one upriver is nicknamed the “New Bridge”. This bridge is Interstate 55 running north-south across the country.
The final and fourth bridge from Arkansas to Memphis is also the newest of all four, being built in 1972. It was named the Hernando de Soto Bridge after the Spanish explorer who is claimed to have discovered the Mississippi River in 1541. Beside its nickname of “New Bridge”, it is also called the “M” Bridge and the “Dolly Parton” Bridge due to its structural construction – see if you agree when you view the photo posted with this entry.
Did you know that at one time the Mississippi River actually flowed North? It was in 1812 when the New Madred Earthquake registered an 8 on the scale and caused the river to flow north for 2 days filling the fault caused by the quake.
Along the shoreline Chickasaw Indian Burial Mounds can be seen. There are two of these mounds which are named the de Soto Mounds after the explorer. The city of Memphis is also known as the “City on the Bluffs”.
The river has a 6 MPH steady current. Because of this fast moving current if the Coast Guard puts a buoy to mark the channel, they have to place the buoy in its proper place but drop the 1,000 lb cement block to hold it in place a half mile down river!
It is the 4th longest river in the world behind the Nile, Congo, and Amazon Rivers. This river flows through 10 states on its journey from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. These states are Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana.
Over 100 steamboats lie on the river bottom in the mud and silt. You often hear of the discovery of vessels in other waters, but never the Mississippi River?
If a tow (tug with barges) had to make an emergency stop going downstream, it would take two miles to do so. It is also known on the river that any vessel going downstream has the right of way over any other vessel traveling in another direction.
Many of you know about the Six Flags over Texas and Georgia, but there have been Seven Flags to fly over this area of Memphis; Spain, Britain, France, State of North Carolina, The Confederacy, The State of Tennessee and The United States.
Finally, if you were to drive from Memphis to New Orleans it would be a 395 mile trip. However traveling the Mississippi River it becomes a 640 mile trip due to the twisting and turning of the river.
Hope you enjoyed this bit of trivia about the Mighty Mississippi River and possibly learned something you had not known before.