This beautiful map was created by Harold Fisk. It illustrates the Mississippi River.
Yes! Just the good ol' Mississippi! All of those other river-looking braids were previous pathways the river flowed. Just like how you might mark your height on the door frame as your grow taller, this map records the evolution of the Mississippi River channel.
The white channel represents the river path in 1944, when Fisk created the map. The various colored braids are a compilation of previously recorded river paths Fisk collected from older geologic maps.
So why doesn’t the river just follow the same flow path?
Because rivers are constantly trying to find the easiest path to follow to reach sea level. As the river encounters different geology and experiences fluctuations in water flow, it may meander in a different direction because… well… it’s just easier! Think about what you might do when you’re driving you car and you encounter a slow moving vehicle ahead of you. You change lanes! It’s that simple.
Here’s another interesting thought:
What does that mean for the states that define their borders by the Mississippi River? We're looking at you Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Do the states change their borders too? Wait, aren’t there even more states with river borders?
Yes! Check this map out!
The simple solution is to treat the river path that was present when the state border was defined as the current state border. That being said, it’s still fun to consider the idea that small areas of one state may be incorporated into it’s neighbor, all thanks to unstoppable power of Mother Nature!
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