mississippi river

Marit & Thomas Hinnosaar/flickr

The first Mighty Mississippi Downriver Festival will take place at the French Market and the Old U.S. Mint this Saturday, September 14. Among the many presentations during the day-long event will be one from a man who has plied the mighty Mississippi for 60 years.

On this week's Notes from New Orleans, Sharon Litwin talks with Captain Clarke Hawley, who has spent most of his working life on board paddlewheel steamboats.

Jason Saul / WWNO

If there is one underlying justification for Louisiana’s $50 billion Master Plan for coastal restoration, it’s this: We actually have a chance to prevent Southeast Louisiana from drowning in the Gulf, because the Mississippi River carries the sediment necessary to keep pace with sea level rise.

Grant Morris / It's New Orleans

Even with New Orleans' roaring tourist biz, oil and gas industry, and the new business renaissance, the Mississippi River remains the heart of the city's economy. President and CEO of the Port of New Orleans Gary LaGrange and CFO and Treasurer of Canal Barge Doug Downing take us behind the floodwall and onto the water.


Let’s imagine it is the Spring of 2025, and Louisiana is preparing to open three diversions on the lower Mississippi so fresh water and sediment can reach wetlands struggling to stay ahead of sea level rise.


In a new story out in The Lens today, environmental reporter Bob Marshall delves into an ongoing study about Mississippi River sediment, and its ability to rebuild the coast. Government agencies and scientists have some new ideas about how much mud and sand the Mississippi River deposits along the Louisiana coast before it flows out to the Intercontinental Shelf.

Marshall tops his story by laying out some assumptions:

Life on the Mississippi River is a roller coaster of highs and lows: record high floodwaters one year, a drought and near-record low water levels the next. And those are just two of the many problems faced by river stakeholders like barge operators, farmers and conservation groups.

Those stakeholders met recently in Chicago to discuss the Mississippi's most pressing needs, any common ground, and how to speak with a unified voice in advocating for the nation's largest river system.

So far, that hasn't been easy.

Critical, Crumbling Lifeline

Erin Krall / WWNO

Communities to the north are dealing with flooding from the swollen Mississippi River. But the Port of New Orleans is not expecting any interruption of shipping traffic.

The centerpiece of Louisiana's Master Plan to stem coastal erosion is this: divert the Mississippi River to let it flow over the marsh. Sediment in the river is supposed to stick and build up the wetlands, keeping more Louisiana land above water as sea levels rise.

The persistent drought is raising questions about how the Mississippi River is managed — both upstream and down.

While cargo traffic upriver has gotten lots of attention, the drought is creating a different set of problems downriver at the mouth of the Mississippi, where saltwater has encroached.

An old-fashioned staff river gauge behind the New Orleans district office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shows the Mississippi is running just shy of 6 feet above sea level at the river bend.

The Mississippi River has provided George Foster with a living all his life. Now, with the river dropping to historically low levels, it's threatening to take his business down with it.

Foster's office sits atop an empty barge on the river, just south of St. Louis. His building tilts at a 30-degree angle because the water is so low. Visitors may want to stick out their fingertips for balance walking down his narrow hallway.