I was first drawn to the Kaskaskia when I noticed that wheat flourishes in its basin, a place where nineteenth century-town proprietors platted towns and built flour mills and churches to provide anchors for their communities.
I next noticed the Kaskaskia when I flew over its channelized lower reaches and noticed the cut off oxbows that bracketed its new straight channel.
Again, I noticed the Kaskaskia when I crossed its floodplain daily, sometimes twice a day as I traveled east to North Prairie to photograph a red shed that stood between two wheat fields.
I first photographed the Kaskaskia when I came across an a natural cutoff, a wetlands, on Illinois 177, near Venedy, Illinois.
Years ago I came upon Highbank, a right angle bend in the unchannelized stretch of the river, one that would have been cutoff if the river had been straightened at that point. Here the river shaved sediment from the outside of the bend and deposited sediment on the inside of the bend, a perfect illustration of how meandering rivers work.
Highbank is very different from the channelized portion of the river at New Athens.
The Corps of Engineers channelized 36 miles of the Kaskaskia between Fayetteville, Illinois and its mouth and built a lock and dam near its confluence with the Mississippi in order to turn it into an efficient barge canal to ferry the 1.8 billion tons of coal that lay under glacial till and Pennsylvanian rocks and within 15 miles of the river
Now, I come to the place where Peabody Coal drained a cutoff channel of the Kaskaskia and stripped the coal from its river bottom and adjacent floodplain. When the mine played out, Peabody donated the site to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for the Peabody-River King State Fish and Wildlife Management Area.
The coal in the Lower Kaskaskia basin lies close to the surface. When Peabody drained the cutoff section of the Kaskaskia to mine it for coal, it found a vain seven feet below the river bottom. They had to go deeper in the adjacent floodplain.
Copyright © Quinta Scott, 2009, All Rights Reserved
Filed under: Fine Art Photography, Kaskaskia River, Peabody River King State Fish and Wildlife Management Area, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers | Tagged: Kaskaskia River, Peabody Coal, Peabody Energy, Photography, Venedy Illinois |