• The Mississippi: A Visual Biography by Quinta Scott

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A Meandering River

 

Mississippi Oxbow Bend, Itasca State Park, Minnesota

Mississippi Oxbow Bend, Itasca State Park, Minnesota

To see how a river meanders, go to the headwaters of the Mississippi at Itasca State Park. This oxbow is a miniature of an oxbow on the Lower Mississippi. Here the scale is observable. In the image above the inside bends are to the right and left.

A meandering river shaves sediment from the inside of an oxbow and deposits it on the outside bend. In this way the bend moves downstream. The bend or oxbow is also called a point bar. 

Sometimes the neck of the point bar, the space between two inside bends, becomes so narrow that the river can cut a new channel across the neck, forming a horseshoe lake once the ends of the lake fill with silt. 

 

Mississippi Headwaters, Minnesota

Muddy Bank of Ouside Bend, Mississippi Headwaters, About Mile 1346, Minnesota

 

 Just outside of Itasca State Park the Mississippi headwaters flow through a marshy prairie. Here too, the river shaves sediment off the inside bend and deposits it on the muddy bank of the outside bend. The river moves on to the inside bend where the muddy bank ends and the marshy prairie edges the stream. Wild celery anchors the bed and skims the surface of the river.

 

Mississippi Headwaters, Oxbow Bend, Cohasset, Minnesota

Mississippi Headwaters, Oxbow Bend, Cohasset, Minnesota

The river continues to meander in its headwaters until it spills over St. Anthony Falls into the Upper Mississippi gorge.

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