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confluences - the Crow edition
confluences - the Crow edition
June 17, 2022

"You said things I wouldn't say
Straight to my face, boy
You tossed the egg up
And I found my hands in place, boy
After backing up as far as you could get
Don't you know nobody parts two rivers met?"

- Liz Phair, Mesmerizing

I've always loved that line: "don't you know nobody parts two rivers met?" And it's true: once two rivers have come together, intermingled, there is no separating them.

But another, almost opposite thing is also true: once two rivers meet it takes them miles and miles to actually fuse together, to become one river.

I noticed this earlier, where the Willow added its darker, more tannin-rich but much less silty stream to the Mississippi's then sort of chocolate-colored semi-translucence. But the confluence with the Crow has been even more stark.

The Crow is tan, tawny, silty, opaque. Where it met the Mississippi, the Mighty Miss is darker and clearer. By no means the crystal stream I saw coming out of Winnibigoshish, but also not the khaki thickness of the Crow.

They meet in Dayton. There is a firm, clear line (that has proven very difficult to photograph) where they come together, with eddies marking the meeting-point. Tan on the right, dark brown on the left.

And then they roll along like that, mile after mile. The right bank: light colored, tawny, relatively opaque. The left bank: clearer, dark brown, like a piece of dark chocolate. I paddled between the banks to make sure, and it is obvious. The mixing zone in the middle is no longer a stark line, but more of a gradation, the place where the mixing is occurring, a half-tone between Upstream Mississippi and Crow in the Mississippi's Banks.

Right after the confluence is a largish island called Goodin's Island. The Crow-in-Miss peels off to go along the side channel to the right. The Miss Proper goes to the left.

I had to check it, and the turbidity tube was right there. So I took a sample from the Crow-in-Miss, along the right bank. Sure enough, the turbidity was 25cm. I laughed out loud. The Miss this morning was at 53, before being part-joined with this siltier niece. And to be clear: I didn't take this sample right at Dayton. I took it at least three miles downstream, on the right side of the river.

With every paddle, with every speedboat and Jet Ski I see, I think: we are helping. The turbulence we create is mixing these waters, helping them become one.

So. Nobody and nothing parts two rivers met? Depends how long ago they met. If you're Goodin Island in the right place, you're damn right you can part the Crow, or at least part of it, from the Mississippi.

I wonder if they will be one river by the time the two of them collectively meet the Rum tomorrow.

All of this made me cackle and chortle and titter for miles.

"Don't you know I'm very happy?
You know me well.
I'm even happier:
I like it."