Mississippi: A Visual Biography

Overview

Consider the Misi-zibi, the Great River: what natural forces took sixty thousand years to shape, we Americans molded to our needs in three hundred, damaging its wetlands, in some cases, beyond repair. Photographer Quinta Scott has documented the progression of the Mississippi River from its source at Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico, with hundreds of stopping points along the way. In this remarkable volume—the only book to focus on the topography of the whole river and its floodplain—she blends images and text ...

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Overview

Consider the Misi-zibi, the Great River: what natural forces took sixty thousand years to shape, we Americans molded to our needs in three hundred, damaging its wetlands, in some cases, beyond repair. Photographer Quinta Scott has documented the progression of the Mississippi River from its source at Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico, with hundreds of stopping points along the way. In this remarkable volume—the only book to focus on the topography of the whole river and its floodplain—she blends images and text to weave a comprehensive view of the riparian landscape as a living organism and of the effects of human intervention on its natural processes.

            Scott began photographing sites along the Mississippi just before the flood of 1993, and her images reflect the sweep of the river’s history, from formations from the Pleistocene era to damage left by Hurricane Katrina. Wielding her large-format camera along the river’s entire stretch, she captures important sites—places like Bayou de View in the Arkansas “Big Woods,” where the Ivory-billed Woodpecker was sighted in 2004, and the Timbalier Island, a barrier island and hurricane speed bump—that represent both what Americans have done to change the river and our current attempts to restore its damaged ecosystems.

In 200 dramatic color photographs, Scott illustrates the geographical and botanical features of the river and shows how its wetlands were formed by glacial melt and the river’s meandering. In accompanying text, she explains how we have changed each site depicted and how we try to manage it and notes the wildlife that occupies it. She describes what is being done to restore the islands and side channels on the Upper Mississippi, forests in the lower alluvial valley, and coastal marshes along the Gulf of Mexico. She also reveals the role of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers first in changing the river, then in working to restore it, as well as the Corps’ relationship with Congress.

            No one has ever before attempted such a vast photographic documentation of the Mississippi River, capturing so many sites in all their diversity and complexity while also discussing ongoing geologic processes and human history. This majestic book is nothing less than a natural biography of the Mississippi, showing that, to understand the river and its floodplain today, we must understand the natural processes we have disrupted. It is both a rich documentary source and a fascinating overview for anyone captivated by this quintessential feature of the American landscape.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826218407
  • Publisher: University of Missouri Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/2009
  • Pages: 404
  • Sales rank: 1,457,220
  • Product dimensions: 11.10 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Quinta Scott’s other books include The Eads Bridge and Images of St. Louis (University of Missouri Press) and more recently Along Route 66: The Architecture of America’s Highway. She lives in Waterloo, Illinois.

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Table of Contents

Assembling the Mississippi Basin 1

Shaping the Master River - the Wisconsinan Glacier 4

European Exploration and Political Control of the Mississippi 16

Managing the Mississippi for Flood Control and Navigation to 1860 18

Improving the River for Navigation after the Civil War 25

Logging and Draining the Floodplain 30

The Beginnings of the Restoration Movement 32

The Flood of 1927 35

Reengineering the Lower and Upper Mississippi 39

The Beginnings of the Environmental Movement 45

Reengineering the Archafalaya 49

The Water Resources Development Act, 1965-1986 53

Restoration Efforts on the Upper Mississippi 57

The Flood of 1993 - Lessons Not Learned 59

Middle Mississippi Restoration 65

Restoration Efforts on the Lower Mississippi 68

Managing the Delta for Oil, Gas, and Navigation 71

Restoring the Louisiana Coast 75

The Flood of 2005 - The Law of Unintended Consequences 80

Restoration Efforts - the Managed River 93

Congress and the Corps 100

Photographs

The Headwaters 109

The Upper Mississippi 122

The Western Lowlands and the White River Basin 175

The Eastern Lowlands 191

The Yazoo Basin 197

The Arkansas Lowlands, the Boeuf Basin, and the Tensas Basin 211

The Mississippi Meander Belt 224

The Atchafalaya Basin 265

The Delta: Introduction 279

The Teche Delta and the Vermilion Basin 282

The Terrebonne Basin 288

The Barataria Basin and the Lafourche, St. Bernard, and Modern Deltas 315

Barrier Islands of the Lafourche Delta 332

The Lake Pontchartrain Basin 342

Breton Sound and the Birdfoot Delta 351

Common Acronyms in Captions 367

Bibliography 369

Index 391

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