Ribbons of water: vintage maps of the wandering Mississippi


Via Alexis Madrigal's Mississippi explainer at the Atlantic, this beautiful map of the Mississippi's historic meanderings is like a carelessly draped cluster of silk ribbons. Madrigal says,

If the Mississippi were allowed to do what it wanted, what is now the Atchafalaya River would become the new ending of the Mississippi. Again, in a purely natural world, that would be a six of one, half dozen of the other situation. But now human systems depend on the Mississippi remaining roughly as it was in 1900 when we started to build massive amounts of infrastructure.

As you can see, the river is a bit of a commitment-phobe. . . will we be able to keep it fixed for the next hundred years? Should we even try?

For even more luscious ribbony meander maps, go here. And here's a comparison of a meander map to a satellite photo, showing formation of an oxbow lake.


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