More Disappearing Cairo

Cairo Illinois c 1967Cairo is a town of subtraction. I still take visitors there, but there is less and less to show them. It’s gotten so I hardly pull the camera out because there’s nothing but open ground where a vibrant downtown once flourished.

Here’s a view through a floodgate opening at 8th Street in some time around 1967. You can click on the photos to make them larger.

Looks pretty much the same in 2010

Cairo Floodwall 10-26-2010_8572Except for being in color, the two photos are pretty much the same. This one was taken October 26, 2010.

2012 fire erases old buildings

Cairo 11-13-2012

A fire started in an adjacent building and quickly spread to these two old warehouse buildings. This was taken November 13, 2012.

Nothing left but pile of bricks

Cairo 11-13-2012When the fire was over, nothing much was left except a pile of bricks and some columns.

Not even the bricks remain

Cairo floodwall 07-10-2013_5828

By July 10, 2013, you would never know the buildings existed.

A line has been added to show the 2011 record 61.7-foot highwater mark on the floodwall. There is a common misconception that the Bird’s Point Levee was blown just to save Cairo. In fact, it reduced pressure on the levees and floodwalls in Brookport, IL, Paducah, KY, Cairo, IL, Hickman KY and Tiptonville, TN. Some have speculated that Olive Branch might not have flooded if the levee had been breached earlier.

The reason Cairo got so much attention was that the Cairo river gauge was the one used to judge when it was time to activate the floodway that had been in place since 1937.

Older Cairo stories

I’ve photographed Cairo since the 1960s. Here are some older stories and photos.

 Speaking of disappearing

Buy From Amazon.com to Support Ken Steinhoff

  1. The gas and motel bills are starting to filter in from my trip and my bank balance is starting to disappear. This is a good time to make a couple of pitches: if you are going to do your Christmas shopping on Amazon anyway, click on that big Click Here button (or the one that’s at the top left of every page). It will take you directly to Amazon just like always, but it will contain a code that will give me about 6% of whatever you purchase without adding a penny to your bill. It’s a painless way to say “Thanks” for the stories and photos I send your way almost every day. Here’s more info that Kid Matt provided a few weeks ago.
  2. Don’t forget that 2013-2014 Snapshots of Cape Girardeau calendars are still available. The calendars, when filled in with family special dates, make great gifts that will be appreciated all year long. (And, if you write your birthday down, maybe you’ll get a gift from someone that will be worth more than what the calendar cost.)

 

Bird’s Point Levee July 2011

I was working on a project that sent me on a wild goose chase to Wilson City, east of Charleston and west of Cairo off U.S. 62. Had the bridge not been closed, I could have been in Cairo in less than 10 miles. Mother was along for the ride, so I told her we should go down to see Bird’s Point since we were so close. I plugged it into the GPS and we were off on an adventure.

As best I can piece together, we came off 62 on Mississippi County Route 301, drove until we saw some work being done in the distance on the levee, but decided not to ignore the signs warning us to keep out. We kept on CR301 until it hit CR302, then went up on the levee, which was called CR 303. Along the way, we saw some signs that water had been in that area, but we also saw lots of freshly-planted fields. Click on any photo to make it larger.

Old remains found

I’m guessing the road was closed because old remains had been found along one section of the levee. The Missourian reported that the Osage Nation American Indian tribe has been involved in the investigation, leading to the assumption that the bones and relics were part of a native tribal settlement. The Department of Natural Resources has put a blackout on news of the finds at the request of the Native American tribes involved in order to protect the site from looters.

Remaining water is bird paradise

We saw scores of wading birds taking advantage of the fish trapped in water left behind after the flood.

Fields are turning green

Despite dire predictions that the fields would be ruined for decades, we saw plenty of evidence that farmers were able to plant a lot of crops as soon as the fields dried out. In fairness, we only saw a tiny fraction of the land that had been flooded. I’m sure there ARE parts that have been turned into moonscape and are buried under huge deposits of sand. My point is that not ALL of the land has been ruined.

Scour area is impressive

CR 303, the levee road, ended abruptly at one of the places it was breached. The massive flow of water gouged deep holes in the ground. My van parked atop the levee will give you a sense of scale. I’m guessing the levee is about 15 feet above surrounding terrain. The bluff in the foreground are 15 or 20 feet below that, and I don’t know how deep the water is in the pit.

View behind me

As impressive as that is, if you turn 180 degrees and look the other direction, the fields are clear and have been planted. I don’t know how much work it took to get them into that condition, but looking at the gouged earth without looking at the planted fields will give you the wrong impression, and vice versa.

Equipment at the ready

I don’t know if this equipment belongs to farmers or if it’s there to repair the levee. I didn’t want to interfere with whatever work they were doing, so I didn’t go down to ask.

Interactive Google Map of area


View Bird’s Point Levee in a larger map
 

Gallery of Bird’s Point photos

Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right to move through the gallery.