A century ago, Union Army canoneers at the state capitol fired cannons into Confederate-sympathizing Callaway County. The cannon balls bounced off the frozen Missouri River into Callaway County. But we are unlikely to see the river like that ever again.
Last week’s bitterly cold weather left a lot of ice floating on our major rivers, the Missouri and the Mississippi. History has several accounts of those river freezing solid in the winters, and Columbia Daily Tribune writer Rudi Keller records the ice was two feet thick at Jefferson City the day the cannons were fired.
But that was a different river, before the Corps of Engineers made it a more navigable stream a century ago. The chief of the Missouri River Basin’s Water Management Division, Jody Farhat, says “The navigation channel is more confined so we’re concentrating the flow into a narrower channel. It’s deeper and narrower even during the winter period…where back a hundred years ago it was a wider, shallower, meandering sort of channel. The reservoirs are used to supplement the releases during the winter period…There’s more water flowing in the river now than there would have been back a hundred years ago.”
The river might see ice jams or ice dams today, but it won’t freeze over for long stretches any more, as it did in great-grandparents’ day.