The mighty Mississippi is so low, people are walking to a unique rock formation rarely accessible by foot

Oct 16, 2022, 10:48 AM
Mississippi River at Tower Rock (Google Earth Pro)....
Mississippi River at Tower Rock (Google Earth Pro).
(Google Earth Pro)

(CNN) — Tower Rock — a massive island in the middle of the Mississippi River south of St. Louis — is typically surrounded by water and only accessible by boat. But as severe drought spreads across the Midwest and pushes river levels to record lows, people can now reach the rock formation on foot.

“The river has dropped low enough that you can walk over to Tower Rock and not get your feet wet or muddy,” Missouri resident Jeff Biget told CNN. “I only remember being able to do this one other time in my life.”

Photos taken by Biget show people hiking across the rocky river bed to the island tower, a trek posing little risk in the near-term as water levels are expected to continue to drop for at least the next two weeks.

Tower Rock can be reached on foot when the water level is below 1.5 feet at the Chester, Illinois, river gauge, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation. The gauge dropped to around zero on Thursday and shows no sign of significant recovery in the forecast.

More than 55% of the contiguous United States is in drought, according to the US Drought Monitor, which is the largest area since April. And more than 133 million people live in those drought-stricken areas; the biggest population affected since 2016.

Severe drought covers more than 70% of Arkansas and nearly 40% of Missouri, up from just 5% a month ago. Several locations have seen record-low precipitation over the past few weeks, including Memphis, Fayetteville, Arkansas, and Springfield, Missouri. The forecast from the Climate Prediction Center is dry, with below-average rainfall in the outlook through at least October 23.

The drought’s early autumn expansion in the central US has had a significant impact on the Mississippi River. In Memphis, the river was at its lowest level since 2012 this week and its third-lowest on record. The forecast calls for it to decline further, to the second-lowest level on record.

This weekend, the river gauge at Osceola, Arkansas, set a record low measurement, breaking the previous record set in July 1988, and forecasts indicate the river will further drop this week. Two other nearby gauges also set all-time record lows.

In total, more than 40 river gauges in the Mississippi River Basin are reporting low water levels, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Bailey White, who lives in Tennessee north of Memphis, told CNN she has never seen the Mississippi River’s water level drop this low. White said she and her family boat on the river a few times a month, but they had a difficult time putting it in on Saturday.

“I’ve seen the water levels drop a little, and I’ve seen them super high, but I’ve never seen them this low before,” White said. “We couldn’t even get our small boat on the river. We had to try five different docks until we were able to do so. It’s a small boat, so it doesn’t sit deep in the water, but we definitely had to pay extra attention a few times, or we would’ve hit some sand.”

Photos show how the river has contracted away from its banks. The usually mighty Mississippi looks more like a trickle in some areas, with dry sand exposed where several feet of water usually flows.

The low water levels come at a crucial time of the year for the transport of crops from the nation’s heartland, CNN has previously reported. The Army Corps of Engineers has been dredging portions of the river to keep traffic flowing, albeit at a much slower pace. Hundreds of barges and vessels have been queuing up, waiting for the all-clear to pass through the treacherously-low river.

The Consolidated Grain and Barge Company, which buys, stores and sells crops for shipping, can usually move grain on barges loaded up to 80,000 bushels, according to David Gilbert, the company’s superintendent at its Greenville, Mississippi, office.

But recently the low water levels have forced the company to keep the loads far lighter, at around 55,000 bushels.

“I ain’t seen it lower than it is now,” Gilbert told CNN. “We’re not loading right now.”

Gilbert said instead of shipping their harvests right now, many farmers are “just throwing it in their bins” and waiting for better conditions, which could still be weeks away.

But even as the supply chain crisis grows, a playful mood is taking hold around Tower Rock.

“Tower Rock, walking on the river out to it only happens every so often,” Elainna Froemsdorf told CNN affiliate KFVS.

She took her grandchildren to make the hike on Monday, which was a school holiday.

“Today was no school, so it means fun grandma day,” Froemsdorf said.

She told KFVS her grandchildren are the third generation in her family to experience walking out to the formation. And her granddaughter, Adilyn Chowder, was happy for the new experience.

“I haven’t done anything like that before, and it was kind of challenging, but it was fun,” Crowden told KFVS.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories


An apparent shortage of pharmacists is forcing CVS and Walmart to reduce the hours of its pharmacie...
Jordan Valinsky

CVS and Walmart cut pharmacy hours, close some locations earlier, citing staffing shortage

An apparent shortage of pharmacists is forcing CVS and Walmart to reduce the hours of its pharmacies, as they close earlier in thousands of locations.
2 days ago
Video of the attack on Paul Pelosi at his San Francisco home was released after a California court ...
Jeremy Herb, Jack Hannah and Jack Forrest

Court releases video of attack on Paul Pelosi

The San Francisco Superior Court on Friday released video and audio recorded during last year's attack on Nancy Pelosi's husband, Paul Pelosi, including police body-cam footage depicting the moment of the attack and the alleged assailant's police interview where he admitted he wanted to hold the then-House speaker hostage.
2 days ago
Bed Bath And Beyond is in financial trouble...
Paul R. La Monica and Nathaniel Meyersohn, CNN

Bed Bath & Beyond says it can no longer pay its debts

(CNN) — The end could be near for struggling retailer Bed Bath & Beyond, as it warned in a regulatory filing Thursday that it received a notice of default from its lender, JPMorgan Chase. Shares of Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) plunged more than 20% on the news, to about $2.56 a share. The company […]
3 days ago
The rotation of Earth's core may have paused, scientists in China have suggested. (Adobe Stock via ...
Lianne Kolirin

Earth’s inner core may have stopped turning and could go into reverse, study suggests

The rotation of Earth's inner core may have paused and it could even go into reverse, new research suggests.
3 days ago
M&M's are piled in a container on January 24, 2023 in Miami, Florida. M&M's announced that its mult...
Danielle Wiener-Bronner

How M&M’s is making the most of its spokescandies controversy

Following the flood of attention its characters are going on an "indefinite pause," handing off spokesperson responsibilities to actress and comedian Maya Rudolph.
4 days ago
Police officers detain a man, believed by law enforcement to be the Half Moon Bay mass shooting sus...
Ray Sanchez

‘Tragedy upon tragedy’: 44 hours, 3 mass shootings, 19 dead

(CNN) — Forty-four hours in America. Three mass shootings. Nineteen lives wiped out. All in California. The victims in suburban Monterey Park included people between the ages of 57 and 76, ringing in the Lunar New Year Saturday night at a dance studio in the heart of the city’s Asian American community. Then it happened […]
4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t Let a Ransomware Attack Get You Down | Protect Your Workplace Today with Cyber Insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
The mighty Mississippi is so low, people are walking to a unique rock formation rarely accessible by foot