Wicked River

I had the opportunity this past week to take a riverboat cruise along the mighty Mississippi River, although this wasn’t the typical riverboat cruise with fine dining and music one might be accustomed to.  This was a riverboat cruise, dubbed Wicked River, full of art, science, history and adventure organized by the Mississippi River Fund.  I boarded the  Jonathan Padelford Riverboat and was immediately greeted by the Prairie Fire Lady Choir.  People of all ages were in attendance to interact with the presenters on board, which included National Park Service Rangers with historic aerial photographs, videos, and maps; scientists from the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory with a rather unique river flume; and a lady who has a very intimate connection with the river in that she’s lived on it in a paddleboat for years.

The river flume was of particular interest to me.  The flume is designed to help folks learn and think about fluvial geomorphology.  Say what?…yes I said the correctly…fluvial geomorphology.  I’ll break it down for the non-scientist folks.  Fluvial = water, geo = earth, morph = change of and ology = the study of.  Essentially these scientists study how water and earth interact with one another.  The flume helps demonstrate the basic principles of river behavior,  channel morphology and sediment transport processes with remarkable accuracy. It comes complete with miniature trees, culverts and even had a small dump truck to simulate how we as humans impact natural processes.  My inner child came out and I was playing in the water and sediment (which in this flume is actually small bits of colored plastic) in no time.  Creating new channels, moving trees, diverting water, and dumping mini loads of sediment into the makeshift riverbed was not only fun but helped us all see that when you change one thing in a river, it can cause additional changes throughout the rest of the channel.  The true children on board were also very intrigued and started building all sorts of fun dams only to demolish them a few minutes later.  Suffice to say, I think we had some future engineers aboard that evening.

I do enjoy good science, but I’ll leave that to the professionals and stick with what I enjoy most…watching  people, photographing their expressions, and the landscape which causes those expressions.

Click on the image below see my gallery from the the Wicked River Riverboat cruise.

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