The Life Aquatic

This week’s essay takes its inspiration from Dinty Moore’s “Google Maps” form.

To interact with and read the story, in any order you choose, please click through the markers on the map. For easiest viewing, I recommend full-screen mode. Don’t forget to zoom out to see all the spots around North America!

This piece also benefits greatly from reader participation. Some markers detail anecdotes from friends and colleagues about their memories around bodies of water. Please post your own memory or story in the comment box below, along with the body of water it pertains to, and I will add it to the map!

Header image credit: Hennepin County Library.

One thought on “The Life Aquatic

  1. I kayaked over 1,000 miles of the Mississippi from St. Louis to New Orleans over the course of 27 days in 2009. I took that trip with Aaron and Sarah Reedy monitoring nutrients in the River. The river was flooded and untamed, if just a few weeks. Even in non-flood years, The River south of St. Louis is undeveloped and relatively unused by recreational craft. For hundreds of miles it felt like a wild river the likes of the Amazon with thousands of migratory birds on endless sandbars and dense lush forests matted with hanging vines. Most of all, I was struck by the power of The River. Millions of gallons of water moving in force, even at slow speeds, had incredible strength. One memory that is seared in my memory is one of a mature maple, or other large shade tree, that had been uprooted flowing down the main river channel in front of us. As the giant tree hit an eddy that had opened up in a confluence it was pulled under instantly. This enormous floating tree never came back come up. The tree was probably hundreds of times the size of our kayaks. Similar trees along our journey were immovably pinned to the backs of mid-river piers. The water rushed by them creating hissing whirlpools on the piers down river side with gaping holes filled with enormous sized river debris at their center. If it could do all this to massive objects, what could it do to our small crafts? We steered clear of any rolling, swirling or rippling movements of the Muddy Waters. The power of that river was not only visible around us but evident through the endless tons of sand it laid down on the banks of the river. The sand bars in the southern river appear like the beaches of Key West or Hawaii. While an impressive display of the river’s might, it was also just gratifying to have miles upon miles of them all to ourselves day and night. This enormous river had changed it’s course thousands of times over the centuries and millennia leaving cutoff oxbows east, west, north and south of the river. All reminders that Old Man River changes his mind from time to time, leaving behind giant lakes a mile wide from it’s old channel. Even now The Army Corps of Engineers battles the river with millions of river mats and dikes to keep it from running into the Atchafalaya River basin. But if I were to bet, I’d put my money on Misi-Ziibi, The Great River, to eventually win that battle. Every time I pass over it, even from the stone arch bridge in Minnesota I am reminded and humbled by its power.

    “One who knows the Mississippi will promptly aver—not aloud, but to himself—that ten thousand River Commissions, with the mines of the world at their back, cannot tame that lawless stream, cannot curb it or confine it, cannot say to it, Go here, or Go there, and make it obey; cannot save a shore which it has sentenced; cannot bar its path with an obstruction which it will not tear down, dance over, and laugh at.”
    ― Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi

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