The Mississippi and the Meander—Two Rivers, Two Worlds, Meandering Through Time

Abstract: 

As two meandering rivers, both the Mississippi River and the Meander River have had considerable cultural significance in history. The Meander Valley was in antiquity the crucial gateway between East and West and hence a vital trade route and path of many armies. The Mississippi Valley has also had a long history of rich culture: from the Native Americans to the romantic steamboat era to the industrialization in modernity. Here I follow some of the sinuosity of these two important rivers to come to the present day where a major discrepancy has become apparent. Where the Mississippi has gained momentum in contemporary cultural imagination, the Meander has basically disappeared from the cultural radar. By juxtaposing the comparable rich histories of the two rivers, I hope to hint at a potential trajectory for the Meander to flow into a course of a larger environmental imagination again.

Table of Contents: 

    Introduction

    A colorful map, dated 1944 and now sold as a work of art, shows the various ancient courses of a stretch of the Mississippi River from south of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, to Louisiana (Fisk, Figure 1).  It illustrates the changing landscape of the meander belt. As geology and climate have changed over the years, the Mississippi has changed with it, taking more turns and twists than an F5 tornado. Drought, flooding, erosion, and man-made changes re-routed the course, with the water forming oxbows and meanders. Meandering has defined the Mississippi. When I learned in my environmental philosophy class that the word “meander” refers in fact to a real existing river, my interest was piqued. The Meander, now an all but forgotten river in Turkey, once played a crucial role in the Ancient World. Its wildly winding course became the name for riverine sinuosity. Born and raised in Hannibal, Missouri, I have always had the Mississippi River in my life. I decided to research the sinuous ways in which those two rivers can be related.

    Gliding down the river, sometimes paddling, occasionally poling in shallower water, a traveler pushes away as greedy, reedy stalks not only claim the banks but grab the vessel as if to hold on to him for just a while, imploring him to stop and share his adventures. But the traveler continues on around another bend, and another, until nightfall, when the banks become home for the weary. The stars that shine so brilliantly overhead in the wild, darkened landscape are doubled in the smooth surface of the river.

    You might think I am describing Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn rafting down the Mississippi River, but I could as easily be describing Jeremy Seal, an author who traveled down the Meander River, also known as the Menderes River, in the Anatolian region of Turkey. In his book, Meander: East to West, Indirectly, Along a Turkish River, Seal canoes down that ancient river, something rarely done, and shares the history of the river’s culture and the currently changing state of both the river and attitudes about water.

    Rivers are anchors of civilization (Klaver, “Placing Water” 15). As such, the Meander and the Mississippi River share much—long, rich histories, fertile river basins, legends and folklore, and many cultural activities along the banks, even though they are very different rivers in size and geomorphology. Here I follow some of the winding ways of these two rivers through time and place, finding some commonalities, contrasting differences, and ultimately discovering the ongoing cultural importance of these two rivers.

    Meandering

    The name “Meander” dates back at least to the Greek river god Maeander, or Maiandros, who was the son of Oceanus and Tethys. The shape of the river is so winding that the name has become synonymous with anything that wanders or twists. Even we, humans, “meander,” ambling along a winding path or rambling through a long-winded argument. A Greek key pattern known as the meander pattern, though done in more geometric square shapes, symbolizes the meander pattern of a river and has been used extensively for centuries on works of art such as vases, building facades, and textiles (Freihalter, Figure 2). In rivers, a meander means a bend in its sinuous course (Kurmis, Figure 3). Meanders are formed when erosion takes place on the outside of a widening stream, while sediment builds on the inside of the stream where the water is slowing down (Sandlin 27). Meandering can take place slowly over time or can happen quickly, depending on drought, flooding, and the make-up of the geologic material that shape both the riverbed and surrounding area. Water will always take the path of least resistance.

    The Meander is a relatively short river, approximately 363 miles (584 km) long—and, given its many meanders, even considerably shorter as the crow flies (Yesil 4). It begins in the Turkish mountains as a small stream that bubbles up and disappears back into a sinkhole, only to repeat this pattern until it reaches the valley floor where it curls back and forth like a slithering snake flowing westward into the Aegean Sea close to the ancient Ionian city Miletus (Gaba, Figure 4).

    The Mississippi River, too, has less than dramatic beginnings, and gurgles from a stream near Lake Itasca in Minnesota; however, having many tributaries in a large watershed, it becomes a huge workhorse of a river that can carry barges, and even today, steamboats (Platek, Figure 5). It is wide and becomes quite deep, ranging from about 3 feet deep at Lake Itasca to 200 feet deep at New Orleans. The Mississippi River runs about 2,350 miles long from the lake down to the Gulf of Mexico, and is much longer when thought of as a river system that includes the Missouri River (US Army Corps).

    During its long course, the Mississippi is rife with meanders, as we saw on Fisk’s colorful 1944 map. The river meandered so much that Vicksburg, Mississippi, used to be on the other side of the river from where it is now. In fact, plantation slaves nicknamed the Mississippi “Old Devil River,” according to Lee Sandlin in Wicked River:

    . . . because of its habit of playing bizarre and malicious tricks. A man would go to bed on one side of the river and wake to find that it had changed course overnight and his property was now on the opposite bank. That was not a simple matter, because the river was the boundary line between states: if he went to sleep in a slave state, he might wake in a free state, and he’d find that all his slaves had automatically been emancipated. This was why some people came to call it the abolitionist river—“abolitionist” being a worse insult than “devil” (29).

    The Meander in History

    Once, great armies, such as those of Alexander the Great, Xerxes, and many of the Crusaders, such as Frederick Barbarossa, swept through the Meander Valley, built and crossed stone bridges, some of which still stand today, and traveled toward or from the Far East. Paul the Apostle, who spread Christianity, traversed its valley during one of his missionary journeys.

    Miletus, with four different harbors, was one of the most important ports in ancient history for several different civilizations, beginning with the Minoans in about 1400 BC (Gaba, Figure 4). The next few centuries would see the port dominated by various groups including Greeks, Persians, and Romans. By 600 BC, it was the center of trade and culture in the Aegean area and was the home of many famous philosophers and historians, including the philosopher/scientist Thales. According to the New Testament, Paul the Apostle visited Miletus multiple times between the years of AD 57 and AD 66 (“Miletus”). Because of the importance of its location on the Aegean Sea, as well as the fact that it was the entrance to the Meander Valley, which was the gateway between the East and the West, invading armies traveled through the valley and early trade routes followed the river through the mountain pass, carrying goods from Egypt and Greece to the Far East and back again. Ruling governments changed often through battle and revolt. However, the downfall of Miletus came not from enemies, but from the silt of the Meander River. So much sediment was deposited at the delta of the river that Miletus became landlocked and lost its port status. The population dwindled as malaria became prevalent and trade disappeared. Miletus was abandoned sometime during the seventeenth century (Hayes).

    In this once culturally rich area now stand humble villages and farmhouses, fig trees, and cotton fields, although some ancient ruins from various time periods can still be found along or near the banks of the Meander—reminders of the  historical significance of the river. For example, at the Sacred Pool at Pamukkale bathers can lounge around the ruins from the Temple of Apollo. There are some popular tourist spots along the Meander corridor, but the river itself is basically ignored even as it nurtures and irrigates the heavily agricultural area.

    The Mississippi in History

    While Miletus was a commercial trade center and a conduit between the East and the West, Native Americans were building their own society on the banks of the Mississippi. Close to present-day St. Louis, and only about six miles from the river, Woodland tribes of the Mississippian culture began establishing small communities around 700 AD, which eventually developed into a large settlement of an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 citizens from about 1050 AD to 1200 AD—a population as large as, or larger than, any European city of that time. They were also known as the “Mound Builders” for building enormous tiered mounds of earth, often with stone steps (Skubasteve834, Figure 6). The largest mound was Monks Mound, which was probably a large temple or the home of a Chief, while smaller mounds, possibly assigned by social status or responsibility, were built around it. In addition, there were large public areas, such as a plaza and a meeting house, with two-mile-long palisade walls surrounding these public areas. The lay-out reveals a complex and sophisticated society. As England had its Stonehenge, the Mound Builders had five similar “calendars” (known as the American Woodhenge) made of cedar poles that were aligned with the sun. This was the largest settlement north of Mexico, and it was primarily an agricultural society. Corn and maize were grown and traded for meat, copper, or shells from other Mississippian tribes as far away as Florida, down to the Gulf of Mexico, and even up to the Great Lakes (Cahokia Mounds State).

    This area is now known as the Cahokia Mounds, named for a Cahokia sub-tribe of the Illiniwek tribe that moved into the area long after these mounds were abandoned by the late 1300’s. Exactly what happened to the original Mississippians was considered a mystery until about the 1960’s, when more studies and testing began. It is now believed that disease, war, the exhaustion of resources, and possibly even climate-change effects on crops contributed to their demise (Cahokia Mounds State). While the Meander had its mythology, the Mississippi had its own lore. In 1839, Cornelius Mathews wrote a fictionalized account of the fate of the Mound Dwellers in a book titled Behemoth: A Legend of the Mound-builders. Based upon the large bones found in the Mississippi River Valley, such as those of a mastodon, he wove a tale describing a huge beast that came down from the North and leveled these mounds. The people were fearful of the Beast and yet, at the end, stood up to him, while still their society disintegrated as they turned on each other (Sandlin 161). There is a similarly metaphoric storyline in Beasts of the Southern Wild, a 2012 film about a community living on the last island off the coast of Louisiana, in which a small girl stands up to the beasts from the North (Beasts). Although she faces down the enemy, her people also lose their close-knit self-sufficient community and the land they knew as home.

    The Rivers Entering the Modern Era

    In an attempt to tame the wild meandering of the Mississippi, European settlers began as early as the seventeenth century to change the river and its surrounding landscape, cutting timber, and building dams. As steamboats became a popular way to travel early in the 1800’s, even more changes were made to accommodate the boats and to give travelers access to the small riverside towns and large cities (Holland 173). It was not uncommon in St. Louis to have 150 steamboats docked at once, requiring large boat landings and development along the river (“Steamboats of the Mississippi”).           

    Of course, Mark Twain (the pen name of Samuel Clemens) romanticized the river in this era with his fictional tales of growing up in Hannibal, Missouri—a very real town. Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Aunt Polly, and Injun Joe became known all over the world as Twain’s popularity soared. Even European visitors wanted to travel the great river on their tours through America. Twain further enamored readers with his adventures as a riverboat pilot. But within sixty years, the glamour of that era was over. Steamboats, which were often poorly made pine structures, became deathtraps as fires broke out, and there were over 4,000 fatalities in the first half of the nineteenth century from boiler explosions and fires (“Steamboat History”). An enormous fire, known as the “Great Fire,” broke out along the St. Louis docks in 1849, sparked by an explosion on a steamboat; it burned not only two dozen other steamboats, but over 400 buildings in downtown St. Louis as well. In addition to calling attention to the dangers of steamboats, the fire was notable for various other reasons—it brought about changes in safer building materials such as brick and iron, it inspired the creation of many city fire departments, and it claimed the first life of a professional firefighter in the nation, Captain Thomas Targee (Sandlin 130).

    In 1879, the Mississippi River Commission (MRC) was established by Congress to guarantee flood control and navigation projects (Barry 88). Between the MRC and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Mississippi was changed drastically, turned into the Big River. The river was dredged and the channel deepened, snarls and snags were cleared, and dams and jetties were built (Sandlin 282). In fact, in 1885, the MRC developed a “levees-only” policy, with the intent that the forced containment of flooding would deepen the channel (“The Mississippi River Commission”). Mark Twain, hoping to reconnect with the nostalgic era of his youth, revisited the river on a steamboat in 1882. He had learned to navigate the river as a pilot, but this river was unfamiliar to him. Steamboat traffic had all but stopped, and drastic changes were being made to the landscape along the Mississippi. As Twain put it, “The military engineers have taken upon their shoulders the job of making the Mississippi over again—a job transcended in size by only the original job of creating it” (qtd. in Sandlin 285).

    The entire culture of the Mississippi had changed. Where once the riverfront areas of towns had been vibrant with activity, they were now abandoned and shuttered. Rail replaced the river as the way for people to travel. Steamboat landings gave way to railway stations. The river did stay crucial for transportation, but only for shipping. Life in these towns now centered around their railroad depots, and the river became just a backdrop or boundary for the towns. In many cases, the river was now simply an obstacle between one side and the other, which led to the building of numerous bridges, especially railroad bridges. Railroads became the new travel trend, and the Mississippi River became a tool for industrialization. Factories were built in urban areas along the river, where goods were shipped downriver by barge to New Orleans and then overseas. Barges went back upriver, carrying coal for the long, northern winters.

    This forms a striking difference between the Mississippi and the Meander—the Meander was just never large enough and way too winding to become a significant shipping corridor (although Seal says it was rumored that quarried marble may have been transported by raft) (Seal Prologue). Furthermore, the Meander Valley did not have a similar industrial development as we saw around the Mississippi. A striking similarity, however, is that both rivers have rich, wide, fertile plains with abundant crops, and both rivers benefit from river irrigation for their agricultural production. In fact, the river god Maeander was often portrayed with a cornucopia of harvest on his shoulder (Seal Ch. 16). Huge farms along the banks of the Mississippi fed not only the nation, but nations around the globe, becoming known as the “breadbasket of the world.” Still, 60% of exported U.S. crops are transported down the Mississippi (“Did You Know?”).

    Both rivers have also suffered greatly from their agricultural economies, both on the level of water quality (fertilizer and pesticide use) and water quantity (irrigation). In the U.S., farmers began using chemical fertilizers as early as the mid-1800’s, but the ammonium nitrate production rose exponentially during World War II when it was used for munitions and became widely available as a commercial fertilizer afterwards (Whittemore). Healthy farming practices tapered off through the 20th century as bottom-line profits were increased by the use of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers. Fertilizer and pesticide runoff entered in great quantities into the river channels, endangering humans, wildlife, marine life, and the water supply. Fertilizers from many agricultural areas seep into the Mississippi River, leading to a cumulative effect of eutrophication, an overgrowth of algae, especially in the delta area. Eutrophication causes an increase of bacteria that feed off the algae, and this leads to a depletion of oxygen which is needed by marine life. Ultimately, this process creates huge dead zones, that is, zones where nothing can live because there is no oxygen. Where the Mississippi flows into the Gulf of Mexico at New Orleans, it has created a huge dead zone (NASA, Figure 7) of approximately 5,840 square miles in 2013 (Philpott). Before the mid-twentieth century, when synthetic fertilizers became widely used, dead zones were rare.

    The Meander is polluted not only with agricultural chemicals, but also with hydroelectric discharge that leaves heavy metals in the water. Boron is one of the larger concerns and is detrimental to the crops along the Meander (Koc). It is discharged from the hydroelectric plants in high levels (Sogut). Boron occurs naturally in areas of this river basin because of the high geothermal activity in the region, so when the water is used for irrigation, it taints the soils. A plan has now been devised to address water quality issues through better water management as Turkey looks toward membership in the European Union (Yesil).

    As in many places, Turkey’s relationship with water is complex. On one hand, water is considered to be sacred and to have healing properties, in both  the dominant Muslim and Christian religions. Water is considered to be the source of life itself. Many cultural rituals are centered around water, including hamam—the famous Turkish baths—which became popular in the fifteenth century. Today, towns have public cisterns and fountains where visitors may take a cup and drink, an offering of hospitality that Turks are known for (Terzi 79-81). Even in ancient mythology, water was so important that there were gods of oceans, rivers, and lakes, including the god Maeander. The Greek historian Herodotus (c. 484-c. 425 b.c.e.) stated about the Persians who ruled the area in those days, “Rivers . . . they revere . . . they will neither urinate nor spit nor wash their hands in them, nor let anyone else do so” (qtd. in Klaver, “Placing Water” 13).  Jeremy Seal notes: “. . .  It was a reverence today’s Turks . . . consciously observed.”  And yet, as Seal continues to point out, the channel where a stream should have been in one city park was dry and strewn with trash (Ch. 7).  It appears that the cultural sense of the sacredness of water has been replaced by an economic culture of water, characterized by the productivity of water. More traditional villagers may still hold on to sacred perspectives of water, but the twentieth century Turkish state-run facilities view water as an economic good, a tool for irrigation and hydroelectric power. As is often the case where water is concerned, Turkey is caught between the traditions of cultural history and the demands of a model of economic modernization through technological domination.

    According to Dr. Guven Eken in a 2012 report to International Rivers:

    As it currently stands, the government of Turkey plans to construct 1,738 dams and hydroelectric power plants by 2023. Nearly 2,000 water supply dams are also underway. There is serious concern that in a few years, there will be virtually no healthy rivers systems left in Turkey. (Eken)

    One of the largest of these, the Ilisu Dam that was to be built on the Tigris River, was halted by the courts in January 2013. The damage would have been extensive, wiping out Hasankeyf, a 12,000-year-old historic city, along with hundreds of other important ancient archaeological sites. This was, after all, the cradle of civilization. Thousands of people would have been displaced and numerous species wiped out (Eken).

    But what about the other dams? What are the chances of minimizing the effects of the rest? Villagers are beginning to find their voices and protest, as highlighted in the documentary The Revolt of Anatolia, but few have the money or resources to counter the modernist development plans of the government. There are already at least 635 dams in the country (“Turkey”). Water quantity has already been a problem for the residents along the Meander. The river, flowing east to west toward the Aegean Sea, tapers off to a trickle west of the dam just west of Gokgol. Although the river does recover and recharge from springs and tributaries in some places, the Turkish people living west of this dam, according to Jeremy Seal, believed they had lost this precious water because of drought. As a society that is not very mobile and technologically-connected, many along the Meander simply had no idea that the dam was diverting “their” water to irrigate large cotton fields to the north or to provide electricity for large urban areas (Seal Ch. 16).

    As Seal made his way down the river, he often had to remove his inflatable canoe from the water, and drag it through the fields of barley to another place lower on the river where there was enough water to navigate, or where the willows and reeds had not strangled the neck of the river, making it impassable (Ch. 13). Seal claims that while no one told him he should not travel the Meander by canoe, people were “bemused”—after all, why would anyone travel such a twisty river full of blockages and low water areas when there is a perfectly good road beside the river (Ch. 5)?

    Meandering into the 21st Century

    Rivers change, people change, and times change. History was made in the fall of 2012 regarding the Mississippi; 41 mayors of both small towns and large cities along the river announced a game-changer. They formed the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative in order to speak as a united voice about the issues surrounding the Mississippi River, connecting upstream to downstream, because what happens upriver always goes downriver. The group is meeting actively, planning together, and most importantly, treating the Mississippi River as a continuous waterway, rather than just having an interest in the stretches of riverfront that line their own towns. In an integrated way--engaging with federal agencies, citizens, and corporations--they look at every aspect of the river in order to see what they can do to balance both the ecological needs of the river with the economic development of the river. If the mayoral group meets its objectives, it will strike a balance between commercial use of the river, recreational use of the river, and environmental issues (“Mississippi River Cities”). For example, while physically restoring the river might be in the best interests of the immediate local environment, it must be weighed against the fact that commercial usage (and therefore maintaining and possibly further altering the river) may be better in the long run environmentally—one barge can carry the same cargo as 144 trucks, which might be harming the environment on the level of air pollution even more. These are complex processes, weighing many factors. As Mark Twain said in Life on the Mississippi, “When a river in good condition can enable one to save $162,000 and a whole summer’s time, on a single cargo, the wisdom of taking measures to keep the river in good condition is made plain to even the uncommercial mind” (Ch. 28). Cities are also beginning to develop and design green infrastructures, such as rain gardens and permeable pavement planned for St. Louis and New Orleans, or vegetation buffer zones are used as natural stormwater filters in their city planning in order to avoid harmful toxins getting into the river (“Stormwater Case Studies”). The mayors describe the Mississippi as “America’s most critical natural asset” (“Mississippi River Cities”). As the mayor of Clarksville, Missouri, Joanne Smiley, put it, they want to revitalize their riverfronts and “bring people back to the river.”

    In addition, various members of Congress have joined together to work with this initiative on legislative issues that affect the Mississippi. They formed the Mississippi River Caucus in the spring of 2013—a bipartisan, bicameral group—and one of their first actions will be to address the antiquated lock and dam system (McCollum). Both the caucus and the mayoral group are also working together to take back and preserve the wetlands surrounding the river. The locks and dams along the river confine the river to less than 10% of its original floodplain, which is causing 19 square miles in delta wetlands to disappear every year. There is a federal program with incentives to do this and not only is it working, it is encouraging the return of birds. As an example, bald eagles are now prolific, nesting along the river bluffs. In fact, almost half of the bird species in North America use the Mississippi Flyway to migrate to the south every year, including pelicans, swans, ducks, and other birds (“Mississippi Flyway”).

    In June of 2013, the World Trade Center of New Orleans also announced a new Mississippi River Alliance. Working with other World Trade Center groups located up and down the Mississippi, this alliance will work together to share information that affects trade along the river corridor, including information about river conditions (“World Trade Center”). As conditions have fluctuated wildly in 2012 and 2013, this information has become particularly important. Barge traffic has been delayed both because of low-river conditions from drought and high-river conditions from flooding caused by heavy rains and snowmelt. The cost of transporting goods is so much lower by barge than by land that any significant cargo delays affect the cost of goods all over the world.

    Besides these political projects such as the mayors’ initiative and the legislative caucus, there are also more and more grassroots movement and environmental groups bringing the river back into the cultural imagination (Klaver, “Landscapes”). Sharon Day, an Ojibwe elder, led a group of Water Walkers from the Ojibwe tribe as they walked the length of the Mississippi River, from the headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico, with a bucket of water from the source to pour into the mouth of the river to bring awareness to environmental issues and the importance of the river. They departed Lake Itasca on March 1, 2013, and poured the headwaters from a copper ceremonial bucket into the Gulf two months later (“Mississippi River Water Walk 2013” Facebook Page). The Mississippi is an important part of the Ojibwe culture—in fact, the name “Mississippi” is an Ojibwe name meaning “Great One” (Sandlin Prologue). Ojibwe men are considered caretakers of fire and the women are considered to be caretakers of the water. Through the travels of the Water Walkers and the ceremonial prayers they offered, they captured the imagination of people in cities and towns not just along the Mississippi, but all over the world by using social media to log their journey. If their Facebook page is any indication, these women have inspired others to act, even if only in small ways. Most importantly, what all these initiatives reveal is that people are once again thinking about the Mississippi, its pollution issues, and the care the river needs. These are timely events, since the river is currently ranked as the second-most polluted river in the United States, but that should change as awareness is being raised through the combined actions of people like Sharon Day, careful city planning, and a stronger legislative voice (“Environmental Group”). The Mississippi is garnering a large amount of attention, and not only through flood or drought news stories. It is gaining a renewed place in our cultural imagination.

    The concerns of the Mississippi are being considered in unprecedented new ways. Environmental groups and concerned citizens are focusing on the river itself—the fact that it matters and must be protected;  the government is realizing the river is a national resource that must be protected with legislation to protect future needs; the World Trade Center alliance is covering the economic aspect; and the mayoral alliance is looking at the river from a comprehensive standpoint that covers everything from environmental to trade to community needs. There is much work to be done on the Mississippi, but if even one of these groups were to falter, because they are working in cooperation with one another, there are others to pick up the pieces. Researchers are looking at agricultural damage, wildlife, and dead zones, and with the technological advances we now have, ordinary citizens also have tons of information easily available through internet. The crucial challenge will be to balance economic, environmental, navigational, and social-cultural needs. If one of these needs were to take heavy precedence over another, such as economic needs had over environmental ones for most of the modern era, the river could again be threatened.

    The Meander River is currently in such a position in which the economic needs trump the environmental concerns. Other than the state-run water utility, which looks at the river from mostly a commercial point of view,  there is not much focus on the environmental protection of the river as such. As Jeremy Seal made his way from the headwaters to the Aegean Sea, the Meander received new attention, if only a little, because it was such a curiosity to Turkish residents that Seal was not on the road or the train by the river, but actually on the river that most seem to ignore. The Meander is mainly used for irrigation and electricity, there is not even much fishing. Ironically, while there are fish in the Meander, the citizens of the riverside villages rarely eat them—instead, they eat fish from the sea that is brought in, claiming the fish from the Meander are not fit to eat (Seal Ch. 7).

    What does the future hold for the Meander? It could end up so channeled or dammed that it becomes a series of “Meander Lakes” or reservoirs. However, villagers in parts of Turkey are beginning to speak up for their water. They have realized they must fight for their water rights, even as the government looks at the manipulation and damming of the nation’s water supposedly in the name of  progress (The Revolt of Anatolia). Just as a civil society movement stopped—or at least helped stop—the building of what would have been the very large Ilisu Dam on the Tigris, citizens are beginning to look at their own areas. Work on the Ilisu Dam has continued despite court orders, but the Turkish government lost funding for this project as three other countries pulled financial backing in August, 2013 (“Turkey Loses Financing”). Social media is helping this cultural revolution as citizens are becoming more connected to not only their own neighbors and civil issues, but to those of other areas battling the same issues, and they are recognizing their own abilities to make a difference. Climate change is also affecting the Meander. The temperature of the water is rising, and the rainfall is decreasing (Durdu 329). This might lead to an increased awareness of the importance of a balanced water management.

    It will be interesting to see what happens to the Meander River. The Meander Valley is an agricultural area, and it may take years for any real change to trickle down, but perhaps, as potential changes in the Meander reach a tipping point where Turkish citizens are forced to begin to feel the urgency and importance of protecting their water resources, they will make their voices heard and the Meander will join the Mississippi on the path to a new environmental imagination around their river (Klaver, “Environment Imagination Situation”). One that sees the river as an asset, as cultural treasure, a pathway to the future AND the past.       

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    Figure 1: Mississippi River Meander Belt, 1944

    SOURCE: Fisk, Harold N. “Ancient Courses.” 1944. (Reproduced in Radical Cartography under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial License 3.0.) Web. 4 Sept. 2013. http://www.radicalcartography.net/index.html?fisk

    Figure 2: Greek Key Pattern “Meander”

    SOURCE: Freihalter, G. Detail der Nordfassade der de:Abtei Saint-Fortunat in de:Charlieu. Wikimedia Commons. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. 3 Jul. 2010. Web. 4 Sept. 2013. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Charlieu_abbey_58.JPG

    Figure 3: A meandering river.

    SOURCE: Kurmis, Oliver. “Meanders of Nowitna River, Alaska.” Wikimedia Commons. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Germany license. Sept. 2002. Web. 4 Sept. 2013. http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/File:Nowitna_river.jpg

    Figure 4: Map of Miletus silting evolution: mouth of Meander River.

    SOURCE: Gaba, Eric (Wikimedia Commons user Sting). “Miletus Bay Silting Evolution.” Map. Wikipedia. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. 16 Jul. 2010. Web. 4 Sept. 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Miletus_Bay_silting_evolution_map-en.svg#filehistory

    Figure 5: Mississippi River Watershed

    SOURCE: Platek, Jon. Map. “Mississippi Watershed Map.” Wikimedia Commons. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. 6 Feb. 2010. Web. 4 Sept. 2013. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mississippi_watershed_map_1.jpg

    Figure 6: Monks Mound in Cahokia Mounds

    SOURCE: Skubasteve834 (Wiki User). Wikipedia. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. 4 Nov. 2007. Web. 4 Sept. 2013.
    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Monks_Mound_in_July.JPG

    Figure 7: Dead Zones in the Gulf of Mexico

    SOURCE: “The Dead Zone.” NASA.gov. N.d. Web. 4 Sept. 2013. http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/environment/dead_zone.html

    Copyright information from the NASA website:
    http://www.nasa.gov/audience/formedia/features/MP_Photo_Guidelines.html#.UiouNzaTiSo