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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/22

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

different curves, and these necks are rapidly disappearing as the banks cave in. Twenty-five years ago at the curve farthest up-stream from the city the neck was over 4,000 feet wide, five years ago it was less than half that width and was caving badly. The neck below the city is only half a mile wide and is also yielding rapidly to the attacks of the river. Greenville is confronted with these alternatives: If the neck below the city is cut through first by continued sapping, the city will be left high and dry, five miles from the river and its reason for existing will be gone. If, on the contrary, the neck above the city is the first to succumb, the resulting changes in the channel will cause most vigorous scouring of the bank exactly where Greenville stands and it will be speedily swept away. The levee now stands where the main street once ran and, despite every effort to stop it, the town has been forced to play leap frog over itself to keep away from the advancing river. Through the expenditure of a million dollars in protective devices the crisis has been delayed, yet the city is doomed eventually, and the money spent in its protection must be regarded as wasted.

St. Joseph, Missouri, with a population exceeding 100,000, and one of the most important centers of the west, faces a somewhat similar fate from the Missouri river. Opposite the city the stream swings around a great bend, St. Joseph being located on the bluff above the river bottoms. Some smaller villages on the flat have already been swallowed up in the stream, and, at its present rate, the current will soon cut its way through the narrow neck which lies a few miles west of the city, severing the Grand Island railroad, rendering the big steel bridges at St. Joseph practically useless, making new bridges over the new channel necessary, cutting off the intake of the water supply, and leaving the city without any outlet for its sewer system. Here, again, somewhat over a million dollars has been spent in river work above and below the city, but the banks have continued to cave, and St. Joseph is facing the prospect of being left higher and dryer than Greenville. From the standpoint of transportation by water, however, the loss of the river front at St. Joseph would not now be a serious calamity, since the Missouri route is at present rendered quite useless by the excessive formation of sand bars.

Both the federal government and the Chicago and Alton railroad have spent large sums in an attempt to control the Missouri at Glasgow. Kaskaskia, the one-time capital of Illinois, has been wiped out of existence by the changing current of the Mississippi, while the prospect of a cut-off at Cowpen Bend, above Natchez, indicates that the harbor of that city will be destroyel by the deposition of large quantities of sand along the entire water front. Striking as these individual cases may be in themselves, the question of this cutting away of the banks, accompanied by deposition of sand in other places, takes on far greater significance as soon as costly improvements are suggested. It is unde-