National Geographic : 1898 Jan
THE MODERN MISSISSIPPI PROBLEM normalities, with means rather than extremes; and their mas terly treatise remains the guide of students throughout the world. The principles developed by them were subsequently discussed and applied by an important federal commission; while the problem of maintaining an open passage from the river to the gulf for vessels of deep draft was solved experimentally by Eads in a manner eminently satisfactory to long-distance commerce. As the vast and fertile bottom-lands attracted the planter they were gradually reclaimed, the plantations extending quite to the river banks; and to meet local and temporary needs (at least in part in every case) the natural levees built by the river were raised artificially to protect plantations and towns. These levees interfered with the natural regimen of the stream in some measure; they checked the annual flooding of the bottoms, such as has enriched the valley of the Nile, and at the same time pre vented the river from shifting to the lower grounds as its bed was built above the level of stability; in short, they initiated the transformation of the waterway from a natural river to an artificial canal. A direct and evident consequence of the change was to render the floods more disastrous when the stream burst its partly artificial barriers, and this led to a demand for build ing the levees higher and higher and extending them further and further along its banks; it also led to recognition of the impor tance of floods as agencies affecting the material development of an extensive and rich section of the country. So the burning problem of the Mississippi today is not that of navigation, not even that of normal regimen as a great river, but that of the floods to which the stream is subject. Accordingly certain recent researches of the Weather Bureau are most apposite and timely.* The report in which they are made public is a straightforward and largely statistical presenta tion of the facts pertaining to the floods of the Mississippi, espe cially the notable flood of 1897. The material is arranged in four sections. The first relates to " The River and Basin," and sets forth the physical characteristics of the entire watershed as ascertained from various sources. The second section treats of " Normal Precipitation and Drainage " throughout the basin as determined from the records of the Weather Bureau, which com prise practically all the meteorologic observations extant. Then * Floods of the Mississippi River. Prepared under direction of Willis L. Moore, Chief of Weather Bureau. By Park Morrill, Forecast Official in Charge of River and Flood Service (U. S. Department of Agriculture, Weather Bureau. Bulletin E). Washington, 1897. 40, pp. i-vi + 1-79, pls. (i, ii unnumbered +) 1-58.