The Working River

I have always been fascinated by the Mississippi River, since growing up just north of St. Louis where the Missouri River runs into it. The Mississippi River is truly a "strong brown god," as poet T. S. Eliot put it, while the greenish Missouri River pales by comparison.

It was not until I moved to the Lower Mississippi River Delta as an adult that I became aware of the true awesome power of the river—the oxbow lakes, the bayous, the flat lands, the once-thriving river towns that are no longer on the river, the lowland swamps. All these are evidence of a force of nature mightier than most of us can even imagine. The river has greatly impacted the personality of the people here in the Arkansas Delta region. For many families, their entire lives have been spent trying to tame the river and harness it for agricultural production.   That instills a resilience in people and an acceptance that what the river gives, it can also take away.  

~ Ruth Hawkins, Director of Arkansas State University Heritage Sites


The Delta region was once the wealthiest part of this country. Old plantations like Frogmore and trips along the original Natchez Trace display to visitors and remind residents alike of how that wealth was made and the continuing impacts of the systems the our economy once relied upon. They give us insight into the lives of the slaves that helped build the Delta and how the Delta changed with history: with the freeing of slaves, the mechanization of agriculture, and our ever-more digital economy. The Delta region continues to exhibit though how our homes were built to live with the River, for shipping, flooding, and fertilizing the crops that still support our communities.

~ Lynette Tanner, owner of Frogmore Plantation and historical preservationist, Frogmore, Louisiana


My father, Ernie Goldstein, started Alter Barge Company in 1959 with one old towboat and 4 old barges. When we sold it in 2011, there were 400 barges and 7 towboats. The barge industry is essential to the economy, especially here in the Midwest. There is no other method for transporting heavy products like corn, soybeans or scrap metal nearly as efficiently as barges. It would take 870 tractor trailers to transport the load that is carried by one towboat pushing its limit of 15 barges. I see the Mississippi River as an economic engine that keeps us vital and connected to the rest of the world.

~ Jeff Goldstein, Businessman and former CEO of Alter Barge Company, Davenport, Iowa

the best travel advice comes from the people who live here
Mississippi River Connections Collaborative