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The Missouri River in 1894

2012 November 6

By Jeffery Robichaud

Missouri River Basin

Map created from DEMIS Mapserver and USGS data, which are public domain.

I always enjoy receiving cool links to data and information that I can use in my work especially older maps.  As you can tell from the name of our blog title, The Big Blue Thread, we are always interested in information about the Missouri River.  A friend of mine passed on to me a website run by the United States Geological Survey that has wonderful maps created in the late 1800’s by the Missouri River Commission.  According to the Corps of Engineers,

Congress created the Missouri River Commission (MRC) in, or shortly after, 1884, to accomplish a continuous, progressive development of the river. The commission consisted of a five-member organization which was charged to make surveys and devise plans to “maintain a channel and depth of water … sufficient for … commerce” and to carry out plans of improvement the commission deemed necessary. The commission went out of existence in 1902.

The Area Around Downtown Kansas City in 1894

The maps go from the mouth of the Missouri to the headwaters.  You can view these online, or download them in either Raster or Vector formats.  If you live along the Mighty Mo give it a go!   I combined them in Arc GIS with some current aerial imagery and showed my kids what the river area looked like over a hundred years ago.  We quickly noticed a bunch more “character” in the river in the form of points, cutbanks, and islands.  Time changes all things and it is fantastic comparing a map from 100 years ago with what we can easily see today.

About the Author: Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7’s Environmental Services Division.  According to the Missouri River Commission Maps, he lives along a ridge that used to be in a forest.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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2 Responses leave one →
  1. r_w permalink
    November 6, 2012

    NOAA has something similar – though it only covers coastal areas. Using Google Earth as a backdrop is a great way for many people to see how the landscape has changed.

    • jrobicha permalink*
      November 6, 2012

      This is great…even though we are about the farthest you can get in the continental US from a shoreline, both Casey and I are fans. We will have to come up with an excuse to play with this at home. There is a mapping app that does something similar to the NOAA visualization but for the MO River maps…unfortunately it is being updated currently, otherwise I would have tossed it in. I remember ages ago sitting in a meeting where Google was updating us on some of the new capabilities of Google Earth (this wasn’t too long after they acquired Keyhole) and at the end of the day I went back to my hotel (I think this was Annapolis) and spent the night downloading Revolutionary War maps of Yorktown from the Library of Congress, pulling the images in, and trying to push and pull them to fit so I could slide the transparency bar and see what today sat on top of a particular redoubt or line. Thanks for the awesome site. Definitely going to forward onto buddies on the coasts!

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