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Opinion | Charles Burdick: Through the passage of time

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Burdick Charles

Charles F. Burdick

Through the passage of time, the current of the mighty Mississippi River has slipped by our shore on its long journey to the Gulf of Mexico, and so have generations of people that have populated our area known as Southern Illinois.

To those who settled in this part of our world, developed, worked, worshipped, lived and passed into the ages within the serenity of this peaceful area, and to all that remain today and to those that return to visit, we sincerely thank all of you for helping make this a great place to call home. Let us all remember Daniel Webster’s quote. “He who careth not from which he came, careth little where he goeth.”

Our region of Southern Illinois is wedged in by two great rivers, the Ohio on the east and Mississippi on the west. Within this geographic boundary lies one of the most attractive areas in the Midwest from an archaeological and historic standpoint. Southern Illinois is often called “Little Egypt,” partly because of its resemblance to the Delta of the Nile and partly because of the city of Cairo, which is situated at the confluence of these two great rivers.

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The Mississippi and Ohio Rivers came into existence for the most part during the past million years, a period geologists refer to as the Pleistocene. Great sheets of ice that lay over eastern Canada and Northeastern United States began to melt and send floodwaters on their way to the Gulf of Mexico, working out deep valleys. Long ranges of limestone and sandstone bluffs were carved out by the action of the glacial waters where the Ozark hill range crosses these rivers. The result of this action is most noticeable near Grand Tower, at Fountain Bluff, and southeastward along the east side of the river flood plain.

The glacier that during this age covered most of Illinois to a point south of Carbondale is known to geologists as the Illinoisan. Evidence of this glacier is shown in exposed places in creek and river banks by characteristic pebble stones of green stone. Granite and other rocks brought down from the north by this glacier. (Peithman)

A warm period caused it to melt; the area became very dry. The prevailing westerly winds during this period swept across dry barren lands, creating great dust storms, and deposited wind-blown soil called loess to a depth of many feet on top of the glacial deposits.

The City of Grand Tower sets on the left bank, (left bank determined by facing downstream, left and right hand) of the Mississippi River and is located 79.5 river miles above Cairo, Illinois. This basin drains all or part of 13 states and several Canadian Provinces. It encompasses 723,700 square miles. This basin includes the Mississippi River from its source in Minnesota and the principal tributaries, the Missouri River, which drains 529,300 square miles above its mouth at St. Louis, Missouri. Including 9,700 square miles in Canada. Other major tributaries include the Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Des Moines, and Illinois Rivers. (Perception) This vast area’s deluge of rains and snowmelt must pass our shore here in Southern Illinois.

Charles F. Burdick is a lifelong resident of Grand Tower. After graduating from high school, he joined the U.S. Navy and then went on to a 42-year Maritime career including 36 years as Master Pilot. He has been retired for 28 years and enjoys local history and writing poetry.


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