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The American Bottom

Muller's Cypress
Stringtown
Modedock Lake
Virgil's Corn

If I thought I wouldn't have to deal with floods, I would live on the American Bottom, a Mississippi floodplain that extends a hundred miles from Alton, Illinois to Chester. The Flood of 1993 brought home how dangerous living there could be

In August when the Mississippi broke through its levee upstream of Valmayer and flooded the bottoms clear south to Prairie du Rocher, the National Guard moved in and closed the bottoms to outsiders. Operating on the theory that it's better to apologize than ask permission, I figured a way around the Guard in October and started exploring the devastation on the American Bottom.

Herbert Muller planted a grove of Cypress Trees on a place on his farm he couldn't dry out. In October, as the flood drained away on a grey, foggy day, the still water reflected the trees, a strip exposed ground, and even the remains of the wheat that Muller harvested in June.

The flood ponded behind the Prairie du Rocher levee, backed up to Stringtown, and held its own level. The corn crop broke off at that level.

Ducks flock to Moredock Lake, pronounced "MoDock," on their migration. Duck hunters follow. But in January the ducks found a frozen lake.

In August Americans watch as Virgil Gummersheimer's house wash away as the flood tore toward Prairie du Rocher. Its force broke off Virgil's corn and bend the stacks to the south, hung the broken bits on a telephone wire, and deposited layers and layers of sand on his field.