Yesterday, I ventured up to Columbia Bottoms at the Confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers with three very good friends. We had a good hike and a picnic and shared the viewing platform with 65 fifth graders from High Ridge, Missouri.
Until a few years ago the confluence was a great deep mystery, something we always heard about, but were never able to see. The Flood of 1993 and the bi-centennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition made it possible.
In the years after the flood the folks who farmed both sides of the mouth of the Missouri tired of tilling frequently flooded land and sold their land to the State of Missouri. The Missouri Department of Conservation owns 4,314 acres on the south side of the mouth, where it is restoring the wetlands on Columbia Bottoms. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources owns the north side on which it opened the Edward “Ted” and Pat Jones Confluence Point State Park on 1,118 acres adjacent to Riverlands. Across the Mississippi is the Lewis and Clark Memorial at the mouth of the Cahokia Diversion Channel, which is a substitution for Wood River, where Lewis and Clark maintained Camp Dubois the winter before their departure on the Corps of Discovery.
In the two hundred years since the Lewis and Clark expedition the two rivers have rearranged the configuration of the confluence, which seems to have moved about four miles downstream.
The Department of Conservation has constructed roads, hiking trails, biking trails, horse trails, and viewing platforms overlooking wetlands, sloughs, and the confluence itself to attract people to the refuge. Hunting, trapping, and fishing are allowed during the proper seasons and with permits. And it’s a great place for birders: Herons, egrets, orioles, indigo buntings, and lots of little brown birds abounded yesterday.