Apple River, Hanover, Illinois—September 2016 42° 15’ 26”N 90° 17’ 11”W Elevation 640 feet

The windows of this vacant factory are reflected in the water. The White Pointer cairn is balanced on the edge of the concrete retaining wall, overlooking the natural spillway. Unlike human constructions, natural rivers neither follow a straight line nor stay in one place.  From the spillway, the Apple River meanders south, looping like cooked ramen noodles. It is nearly impossible to measure the river’s length as it bends and curves, but it travels 6.7 miles as the crow flies before the Apple joins the Mississippi River, north of the city of Arnold and of Horseshoe Lake. Horseshoe lakes like this one are the remnants of ancient river channels that were abandoned over centuries as the river changed course, abandoning the old loops, and creating new riverbeds. 

Two and a half miles southwest of the spillway is the former Savanna Army Depot, founded in 1917 to test and store ammunition. It was declared a Superfund Site in 1984 and decommissioned in 2000. In 2003, 3,000 acres were dedicated as the Lost Mound Unit of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.  The remainder of the 9,000-acre site will join the refuge incrementally as environmental cleanup progresses.