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confluences - the Missouri
confluences - the Missouri
July 2022

The setting for the confluence with the Missouri is strange. The backdrop is very Industrial, with barges and tows on both banks upstream, almost to the confluence itself. There are little green boxy structures on the spit of land on the right bank right above the confluence. It all feels somehow inauspicious, downplayed.

And then there's this line of water, an eddy line: moving water meeting water moving in a different direction. It's very strong, extending out into the Mississippi from the point on the right to somewhere out on the left, buried in the rest of the turbulence of big rivers.

But nose a canoe out into that eddy line, and it takes you, turns you left, and now you're in the Missouri. It's an interesting body of water. Definitely more turbid than the Mississippi has been, but not as thick and yellow as the Illinois. Thinner, clearer, almost reddish.

The two rivers don't follow the pattern I've come to know, where they parallel each other unmixed for miles. Perhaps it's because the Missouri is almost the Mississippi's equal. (It's more than the Miss's equal in terms of area drained upstream from here, I think, and maybe length.) Instead of coyly standing apart, flowing downstream like people standing on opposite sides of the same room, these two rivers meet.

There's a lot of turbulence. Not just that first eddy line, but whole little pockets, seemingly out of nowhere, of unpredictable and chaotic current. I can see how steamboats used to struggle here. I can just sort of spin, and enjoy it.

It's like an infatuated dance. There's a certain passion to it. No patience for staying apart. We are here now, both of us, different but equal. Here we both are, and we need to find a way to make this work, sooner rather than later.

The new river that comes from this fusion is fast and strong. The mixing crucible of the Chain of Rocks is only a few miles downstream, and after than it seems like they are entirely united.

I am now part of water that has touched Chicago, Minneapolis, Montana, the Dakotas, northern Minnesota, much of Wisconsin, all of Iowa, most (all?) of Illinois. My river that had been so parochial, so part of my own part of the world, has leapt into its new role as the Great Drainer of the middle of this continent.