National Geographic : 1908 Jan
68 THE NATIONAL GEC foremost American humorist in his book, "Life on the Mississippi," written twenty five years ago. Models of boats have not been improved; towns have been shut off from connections by railway tracks; facil ities for loading and unloading are scarcely better than in De Soto's day; but with the increase of transportation and the recognition of the inadequacy of present agencies and facilities there is no doubt that the time has come when an effort must be made to restore this river to the position it once occupied as a great artery of commerce. And it is perhaps not too bold a conjecture to foretell that the question whether transportation shall be more and more conducted by rail, or whether the rivers of the country shall bear an increasingly important part, will be worked out by trial upon the Missis sippi River and its chief tributary, the Ohio. PREVENTION OF FLOODS BY RESERVOIRS Another subject which will arouse attention with reference to the Missis sippi is the prevention of the enormous floods which create such devastation year by year. Great progress has been made in this regard. The method most relied upon has been that of building levees. In this connection I may say that of late a claim has been made that by the im pounding of the waters in the upper por tion of the Mississippi and in its tribu taries the force of these inundations may be broken. This plan was dismissed as chimerical by the engineers of fifty years ago, but it is again worthy of careful consideration at this time, since topo graphical surveys now give a better knowledge of the subject. That which seemed entirely impossible in the nine teenth century may be very easy of achievement in the twentieth. Again, while it may be in part a dream at present, effort should be made for the clarification of the waters of the Mis sissippi. The chief contributor that makes it a muddy stream is the Missouri, and it has been estimated that each year four hundred million tons of silt are car- )GRAPHIC MAGAZINE ried along the bed of the river toward the sea-a quantity comparable with and per haps even greater than the amount of excavation required for the construction of the Panama Canal. Not in a day, nor yet in a year, but in the generations to come, we may hope that this river will be so bettered by the protection of banks and by treatment of soil in the adjacent lands as to remove its present quality of muddiness. Another problem is the preservation of forests, not only for the sake of the tim ber supply, but for the moderation of the discharge of waters into the river. Still another, pertaining to many portions of the basin, will be the conservation of waters so that the lands where rainfall does not now exist may be so supplied by irrigation as to open up hundreds of mil lions of acres for settlement. With great rapidity the resources of this country have been exhausted. It is now time to encourage the practice of economy and conservation. The marvelous wealth of this valley should be preserved for future generations, and provision should be made with great care for the maintenance of that equal opportunity which ought to be the birthright of every citizen of the Republic, but which monopolization at present threatens. I congratulate this Society for the in terest displayed this evening in the con servation and utilization of our resources. I am glad to hear a note of warning sounded, and I hope that by your activ ities you may exert a beneficent influence in this direction equal to that which you have exerted in other branches of en deavor. THE TOASTMASTER In creating the Inland Water Ways Commission for the purpose of studying this great project for the improvement of the Mississippi, the President honored this Society by selecting for the Secretary of that organization one who for years has been one of the most active workers in this institution. I will introduce Dr W J McGee to say a few words.