• The Mississippi: A Visual Biography by Quinta Scott

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The St. Francis River–Silver Mines

February is such a come-on in southern Illinois and southeastern Missouri. We have the beautiful warm spring-like days. Then, March comes, all cold,  gray, and rainy. 

Yesterday, Michael Sue and I took a break from editing the Swamp book and took a hike to the Castor River Shut-ins in Madison County, Missouri and Silver Mines Shut-in on the St. Francis River, also in Madison County. Both rivers are interesting because they rise in hard, igneous rock in the St. Francois Mountains of southeastern Missouri and drop down into the Swampeast Mo, the once known as the great swamp that extended from Cape Girardeau, Missouri to Helena, Arkansas and has been cleared and drained for cotton and soybeans.

Silver Mines, October, 2001

Silver Mines, October, 2001

In October the Vernal Witchazel that grows on the bank is brilliant yellow and the river placid. In February the river is not at all placid. Water sweeping over the low, concrete bridge across the river made it too dangerous to cross in order to make a photograph looking up stream. 

Silver Mines, February 2009

Silver Mines, February 2009

And the shore was flooded, making it difficult to get to the rocks in the river.

Silver Mines, February 2009

Silver Mines, February 2009

The St. Francois mountains are ancient, a billion and half years old. Geologists have speculated how Missouri’s rivers formed the shut-ins, which are rapids formed in the bottom of very narrow canyons. Younger sedimentary rocks spread out around them, much like a woman’s circular skirt, one she might wear for square dancing. In some places the sedimentary rocks may have buried the igneous rocks. The river ran over them and eroded the sedimentary rocks down to the igneous rocks at the bottom of their canyons.

The most recent speculation postulates that the rivers eroded upstream from their heads and enlarged weak fracture zones in igneous rock and formed shut-ins at the bottom of canyons.

Vernal Witchazel in bloom

Vernal Witchazel in bloom

As I turned away from the river, I discovered that the Vernal Witchazel that grows on the bank is in bloom. 

February is such a come-on.


2 Responses

  1. I just stopped by your blog and thought I would say hello. I like your site design. Looking forward to reading more down the road.

  2. Thank you.

    Quinta Scott

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