Last night, I saw footage on TV I don't believe I've ever seen before. It's footage of the concerningly low river levels of the Mississippi River, which are so low that a sizable island known as Tower Rock is actually accessible by foot.

Tower Rock can be reached on foot via the Chester, IL river gauge, which is right near Missouri, when the water is below 1.5 feet. Last week, the gauge dropped to around zero, with the forecast showing no significant relief or nor recovery imminent.

A gorgeous shot of the Mississippi River, taken at the beginning of October. Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski
A gorgeous shot of the Mississippi River, taken at the beginning of October. Photo Credit: Steve Pulaski

We're fortunate that the river levels have been adequately maintaining in Dubuque as of late, but other places nearby are not as lucky. Down in Baton Rouge, low water levels have revealed a shipwreck believed to have been sunk in the late 1880s/early 1990s. That's how low these levels are getting.

According to the US Drought Monitor, more than 55% of the United States is in a drought, the largest area since April 2022. More than 133 million people live in the impacted areas. Not since 2016 have drought conditions plagued such a massive part of this country.

As of this writing, nearly 3.5 million people in Iowa are experiencing drought conditions. Dubuque County is classified as "abnormally dry," but only western Iowa is considered to be in an "extreme drought." Illinois is faring better, with "only" over 1.2 million people experiencing drought conditions. The bulk of Jo Daviess County is considered "abnormally dry" at this time.

Wisconsin seems to be the best of the Tri-States, with just a little under 350,000 being affected by this drought. The southern portion is largely experiencing nothing untoward, although the southwestern region is indeed classified as "abnormally dry."

It's unfathomably easy to take for granted rivers in this country until something devastating begins to occur. River levels are incredibly important for the grain and farming industry. Because of the low levels, barges are unable to carry their usual load capacity. Doing so would render them at risk for sinking.

That directly impacts the shipment of goods around the country via the Mississippi River.

You can stay in tuned with the US Drought Monitor via their website. You can also see some harrowing photos of Tower Rock and the Mississippi River from the Tennessee side via CNN.

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