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25 June, 2001

The Big Muddy River 6/25/01

The great Mississippi River, where we crossed it, separates the states of Illinois and Missouri. It is the border of many mid-western states as it travels from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. Many rivers branch into the Mississippi such as the Ohio, Missouri and the Arkansas. The river is muddy as it carries sediment and debris from its banks upstream. At this time, the river is especially muddy due to flooding caused by rainfall over the past several weeks in this region.

When crossing the mighty River, you get the sense that there is a completion that has occurred. We no longer are in the eastern part of America. We have now crossed into the western territory of the United States. The Gateway Arch, which represents the passing into the west, is visible from the bridge across the river.

St. Louis Missouri is located on the banks of the Mississippi. It is a small city (population 325,000) as compared to Cleveland (pop. 700,00) and Chicago (pop. 3.3 million). The city proper is compact with several tall buildings, parks and stadiums. St. Louis is the home of several professional sports teams-the Blues (hockey), the Cardinals (baseball), Rams (football). Each has its own stadium that fill during every game.

We were fortunate to have a walk-on tour guide to bring us around the City. Marion, from Discover St. Louis, gave us a several hour tour of the City. It is nice to have a guide who knows the city to be able to give us the "inside" scoop. St. Louis belonged to French and Spanish. Before the Europeans traveled down the Mississippi, the land was inhabited by several Indian civilizations. These Indians civilizations of 20,000+ lived in the fertile river valley and built large mounds on the banks of the river as housing. These Indians abandoned their post along the river leaving only the mounds as evidence of the past culture. The European settlers found the mounds thus nicknaming St. Louis, the "Mound City"

In 1764, French fur traders from New Orleans founded the city and named it after Louis IX. The city was built on Spanish territory just 18 miles south of the confluence of Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. This post was in a perfect location for fur trading with the American Indians. In 1803, Napoleon sold the Louisiana Territory to President Thomas Jefferson. In 1804, Jefferson sent Louis & Clark from St. Louis to chart the new Louisiana Territory1.

Outside the City proper, St. Louis is the host of the largest public park in the U.S., Forest Park. This was the site of the 1904 Worlds Fair and the 1904 Olympiad. The park has 3 golf courses, an Art Museum, a History Museum, Science Center, a Summer Stock Theater, the St. Louis Zoo and on the outskirts of the park, Washington University. The Loop, an area outside the Park and adjacent to the University has an eclectic selection of cafes and shops. It is very typical of an area around a university.

Our days of traveling are long because we drive and see attractions as we go. Tonight we were able to relax at Union Station. Union Station is a big mall located next to the train station. It contains lots of restaurants and shops. The students were able to walk around and shop. They really appreciated the time off. By 10:00, we were back in the hotel, exhausted but happy. Tomorrow, we explore St. Louis on foot.

Ciao, Cathi

1. Publishing Concepts. 2000. Explore St. Louis-The Official Visitors Guide, St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission, St. Louis, MO

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