On the Illinois River

As the flood of 2019 was reaching crests in towns along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, we set out to see what was occurring on the Illinois River north of its confluence with the Mississippi River, just north of Alton.  For about 75 miles, the Illinois River runs parallel to the Mississippi, creating a wedge of agricultural land between the two rivers, 4.5 miles wide at the Hardin, Illinois in the south and 47.5 miles wide in the north at Quincy.  As we drove north from Alton on Sunday, May 5, we saw the flood’s effect.  Roads were closed (or should have been) because they were covered in water. Families were filling sandbags in the Meredosia City Park. Men were stacking sandbags to protect a house in Hardin, Illinois, not far from a popular riverside restaurant that already had a ring of sandbags around the parking lot and a sign, “carryouts only.” In Hillview, Illinois, the creek in the middle of town had receded after it overtopped its banks a few days earlier.  We drove on gravel roads over levees separating agricultural land from the rivers and even more cautiously on roads that seemed to lead over the top of the levee to the valley below, only to be met by the swollen Illinois river on the other side.