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RIVER LIFE

#TBT: Megalops in the Blufflands Region c. 1900

Today’s image is from the collections at the University of Minnesota Archives.

The collection in question concerns the Megalops, a research vessel built in 1899 that allowed scientists from the University of Minnesota and Minnesota Normal School, Mankato (now Minnesota State University, Mankato) to study the aquatic life of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers.  Metadata for this image, #37 in the collection, indicates it was made around 1900, but no location is listed.  Do any of you have an idea specifically where this might be?

The bluff on the picture’s right places the scene in the blufflands region, reaching from the vicinity of Red Wing down past Dubuque Iowa, almost to the Quad Cities.  The water surface has changed tremendously of course; this shot was made well before the locks and dams built in the 1930s flooded the floodplain forest to ensure a nine foot deep navigation channel for commercial navigation.  The railroad crossing is probably gone also, although it’s possible that sources such as Corps of Engineer charts or photographs documenting the locks and dams may show it.

The village in the foreground might offer a clue, if the right county plat maps or USGS topographic maps could be identified to narrow the spatial focus.  There were several communities such as these along the river at this time, although the railroad was making the river less and less viable as a transportation system. The railroad line appears to hug the shore, while the primitive wagon road snakes through the upland section of the village, dodging what appear to be mudholes before disappearing around the bluff.

If you look at the image on the web page, and click “view full size image” you can zoom in a great deal.  With enough zoom, another community appears on the floodplain past the bluff, in the image’s center-right section.  This is a much more substantial town, with a smoking industrial site of some sort near the water’s edge and what appears to be a very large church set well back from the waterfront.  Unlike the small village in the foreground, this town is likely to still be present in the landscape, perhaps offering a better clue as to precisely where this photo was taken.

Historic photographs: the biggest time-waster on my desk!  Hope you enjoy this one also.

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