Today I made my way back to my new home in Wisconsin. In the past two months, I have made the trip back and forth between my old stomping grounds in eastern Iowa and Madison, WI, over a dozen times (my poor car). I want to include this in the series, this moment: the crossing of the Mississippi, from Iowa to Wisconsin. I go over the bridge in Dubuque, an industrial town, into rural Grant County, WI (originally Sauk and Meskwaki land in IA and some of WI, and Kiikaapoi land in WI- facts I need to more solidly confirm, but I found this out by using @nativelandnet on Instagram, which is a great resource #youliveonstolenland).
Every time I pass over the bridge, and look out at the Mississippi, I am both in awe and horrified. The Mississippi River begins in Lake Itasca, Minnesota, and empties out in the Gulf of Mexico. The headwaters are uncontaminated, but very shortly after the river water leaves the lake, it is polluted with farm runoff (specifically nitrogen and phosphorus) from its tributaries and the surrounding farmland. Iowa’s tile system, the underpinning of a state where about 70% of the land’s surface area is used for crops, pukes out high loads of nitrates and other pollutants into the river. The amount of nitrates in the Mississippi River varies based on drought and flooding, with (obviously) more nitrates and runoff showing up in the now toxic waters when levels are much higher (Wall Street Journal). The boom in agriculture surrounding the Mississippi from its source to its end have caused numerous problems for this river, and while the waste that is purposefully released into the river now is much more regulated, there is irreversible damage like mercury-laden fish, toxic algae blooms, and a “dead zone” of 6,000-8,000 sqft near the Gulf (The Earth Project).
This powerful beast cuts through half the country, slurping muddily along its 2,318 mile path. It is the second largest and the second most polluted waterway in the continental U.S (second in size only to the Missouri River, which empties out into the Mississippi in St. Louis, MO).
I am a worrier, and I have spent long hours on the road these past few months, thinking incessantly about the integrity of our shared resources. Among them is this giant.
+Wall Street Journal:
+Native Land Net:
+“Mississippi River Flood Management Could Cause Another Devastating Gulf Coast Toxic Algae Bloom This Year” Environmental Working Group:
+Mississippi Dead Zone:
+MPRNews dumping history in the Mississippi:
+The Earth Project- Most Polluted Rivers in the USA: