23-Apr-2012 -- As I was en route to Murray State University to work with faculty, administration, and students on the application of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to business and other disciplines, a confluence visit to start the visit off seemed quite appropriate. In addition, as this season was the 200th anniversary of the 1811-1812 New Madrid earthquakes, with epicenters not far from this confluence, as the most powerful ever recorded in the central or eastern USA, a visit here seemed particularly appropriate. And when not 4 minutes after I landed at the St Louis airport, while walking down the concourse, I spotted a large USGS map made no doubt with ArcGIS software of Crowley's Ridge, site of the New Madrid earthquakes, and explaining what to do in the event of an earthquake, I knew I had to make an attempt.
And that's why I was now motoring southward. I reflected, after departing the St Louis airport, that this was another auspicious place and date, my arrival there coinciding with the 1 year anniversary of the airport tornado there in 2011. I had written a GIS-based lesson about that event, and was thankful that today's weather was much better. A bit hazy, but nothing foreboding, with pleasant temperatures.
I felt a little spoiled, thinking about those visits that occurred 10 or more years ago, before the advent of high resolution and easy-to-use satellite imagery. The challenges the previous visitor had, for example, reaching this spot was due to the fact that that visitor did not have the tools that I had. I was able to pinpoint exactly the right field to walk down to avoid slogging through woods and water. At Cape Girardeau, I exited I-55 and took state highway 74 to state highway 25, through the pleasant town of Delta, and at the town of Advance, turned due south. I drove past some beautiful horse properties and farms, then west and south on a few county roads until I was just north of the Castor River. The countryside was gently rolling. I parked just to the south of the east-west road.
I spotted two large vehicles at the parking spot, which made me a bit uneasy, expecting nobody here, but prepared to give an explanation. The parking spot was a large gravel area next to a big shed. Nobody was here despite the vehicles, although during my entire hike, I heard a loud noise from the field to the west, which seemed to be the sound of planting or turning over of soil by large mechanical pieces of equipment. I gathered supplies and set off at a brisk pace to the south, skirting the field on its east side. I was hoping that the confluence was not in the forest, because I could see that it was quite dense, off to the east. One had to marvel anew at the tenacity of early settlers who cleared these dense forests for agriculture. First, they had to build trails and roads through this terrain to even reach this spot that I had so easily traveled to. After 10 minutes, I struck off to the southeast, and after 10 more minutes, I rounded another bend and was at the last field, surrounded on three sides by the Castor River and its tributary, now heading due east. Five minutes later, I arrived at the confluence.
The confluence lay on a level field, which had not yet been planted for the season, about 20 meters south of the line of trees to the north. The temperature was about 65 F under mostly sunny skies and a moderate breeze, slightly humid, now in mid-Spring. I had stood on 37 North several times in the past, from California on the west to Virginia on the east. It was good to be back on the meridian that is halfway from the Prime Meridian to 180 West. I had stood on 90 West three times before: In Missouri, Illinois, and Louisiana. It was also good to be alone and not see anyone around. Getting out on the landscape is really magnificent. After enjoying 15 minutes at the confluence and having no trouble zeroing out the GPS unit, I walked to the creek to the north, in the forest, filming as I did so and nearly falling down in the process. The creek was at least 4 meters wide and looked quite deep. I walked back to the field and filmed two more movies on my way out, because it was so pleasant seeing the breeze in the trees.
Rounding the final bend, I heard the farm work occurring again in the field to the west. I saw nobody in the parking area, and so I took some picturesque photos of the old shed there with a tree growing very near its open doorway. I drove out to the west this time, crossing the Castor River and once again being thankful that I did not have to swim it. I filmed another movie about the New Madrid earthquakes before entering the town of Bloomfield. I drove out onto the Mississippi River floodplain and was pleased to see the signs to New Madrid, but I had a destination in mind for my next visit and filming: Cairo Illinois. Here, a different kind of confluence exists: The confluence of the Ohio River and the Mississippi River. The setting sun was behind me and I highly enjoyed the trip.