Ever since the first person set eyes on the Mississippi River, the power of the river has helped to build and destroy settlements and cities. It has served as a source of life and food and a highway from north to south. It has also gripped imaginations, launched amazing journeys, and inspired music, art and literature. Paul Schneider is one of the most recent writers to fall under the thrall of the Mississippi. His latest book is “Old Man River: The Mississippi River in North American History.”
This summer, officials in Iowa have been asking farmers to voluntarily reduce the amount of fertilizer they use. That’s because the fertilizer contains nitrates that are being washed into state waterways and creating environmental concerns locally and nationally. The runoff has been particularly bad this year, and the outcry over typical crop practices is growing. To find if Iowa farmers are complying with the government’s request, Iowa Public Radio’s Clay Masters followed the water trail.
New attention is being focused on the crumbling lock-and-dam system on the Mississippi River. Iowa officials painted a frightening scenario when they appeared before the Mississippi River Commission last week in Dubuque.
It's been 20 years since the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers flooded, inundating much of the Midwest for months. Host Ben Kieffer looks back on this extensive natural disaster that affected millions of Midwesterns with IPR corespondent Dean Borg, Lester Graham who covered flooding along the Mississippi for NPR, and Bill Stowe who worked for Iowa Power and helped coordinate the isolation of Des Moines's electrical system when the Skunk River flooded the city.
Ben Hoksch sits down with "Talk of Iowa" to discus his 23-hundred mile solo journey down the full length of the Mississippi River in his canoe.
Also, horror and fantasy illustrator Jeremy Caniglia talks about “Art of the Fantastic;" a genre that combines surrealism, dark fantasy and horror in a visual narrative that falls under mythological, allegorical or religious themes.
It got pretty shaky there for a bit, as river levels fell dangerously low, slowing down barge traffic essential to exporting Iowa’s grain crops. Mike Peterson with the Army Corps of Engineers in St. Louis says they were able to keep boats moving until mother nature stepped in to make the Mississippi navigable again.
"I think it’s a source of relief for a lot of folks in the Corps, the Coast Guard and the river industry."
On today's Talk of Iowa, we'll listen back to host Charity Nebbe's interview with the "last river rat" Kenny Salwey, who lives along the upper Mississippi River.
He hunts, fishes, traps, and writes; while he lives off the land in a cabin he built with his own two hands. He talks about the river he’s built his life around, and his latest book, "Muskrat for Supper."
With lingering drought keeping the crucial Mississippi River waterway at historically low levels, some projected that barge traffic on the river would come to a scraping halt in early January. It hasn’t proved to be quite as bad – the Army Corps of Engineers now says the river will likely stay open for transportation at least through the month – but many grain and energy industries that rely on sending products up and down the river aren’t yet breathing a sigh of relief.
Southbound barges on the Mississippi River carry grain destined for world markets. Those barges regularly pass northbound tows with thousands of tons of fertilizer heading to Midwestern ports and, later, to farmers’ fields.
But this year’s drought is adding an element of uncertainty to those shipping patterns, as Mississippi River levels reach record lows. Water levels have fertilizer shippers scrambling to get their product to market before low water dries up their most important shipping route.
The state of Iowa is defined physically by the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. We, in turn, have done a great deal to shape the rivers. Host Charity Nebbe, talks with author Lisa Knopp about her book “What the River Carries: Encounters with the Mississippi, Missouri and Platte”. Her book takes readers on a personal journey along these rivers, exploring their history, geography, and ecology.
Kenny Salwey lives along the upper Mississippi River. He hunts, fishes, traps, and writes; while he lives off the land in a cabin he built with his own two hands. He’s known as the "last river rat". Host Charity Nebbe speaks with him about his life, the river he’s built his life around, and his latest book, Muskrat for Supper.