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Stuck in the Mud on the Mighty Mississippi

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Currently the Mississippi River is setting record low water levels and will probably set more new records in coming days.  Barge shipping on the river, vital to the U.S. economy and especially for midwestern farmers, is grinding to slow motion.  Extra costs are growing by the hour.  The result will be an inflationary bump to food prices and probably other goods.

Memphis-Arkansas Bridge Memphis-Arkansas Bridge

Memphis-Arkansas Bridge Oct 2022 (PC: Bailey White — Shown on CNN)

Low rainfall across much of the Mississippi River Basin largely accounts for low river stages.  The falling water level is not the whole problem, however.  Combine the low water levels with the higher and rising river bottom (see BPF article Tip of a Mudberg), and it becomes clear why shipping is so heavily impacted.

The Lower Mississippi River bottom has been rising for decades due to silt deposition (See BPF article A Deep Dive Into the Lower Mississippi River). This is especially fast from between Vicksburg and Natchez south to Donaldsonville, LA.  Large mudbergs and shifting sand bars slow heavy river flows causing worse flooding and block shipping during low flow.  Silting of the river is accelerating, so expect floods to be even longer and higher and traffic on the river to be stuck in the mud longer and more frequently.

References – BPF Project Mississippi River Flooding, Mississippi River Flooding Charts, Mississippi River Flooding MRC Presentations

Featured Photo:  Tower Rock (South of St. Louis, MO) October 2022
PC:  Jeff Miget
Shown on CNN

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