Office Western River Improvements,
Saint Louis, Missouri, August 30, 1871.
General: Having been assigned to the charge of the examination and survey of the Cuivre River, Missouri, from its mouth to Moscow Mills, by orders from this office dated August 5, I immediately proceeded to the latter place, procured a skiff in which I passed over the river between the limits named, and completing the examination on the 16th instant, have the honor to present the following report in connection with the accompanying map.
The river is formed by the confluence of what are termed the North and West Forks of the Cuivre River, the former taking its rise in Ralls and the other in Audrain County, in the northeast quarter of section 14, township 49, of range 1 west, of the fifth principal meridian. Both forks are augmented by numerous small streams, or creeks, which, flowing from the high bluffs of the adjacent country, scarcely merit the name of creeks in time of low water, but during freshets become turbulent in their character, and carry considerable sediment into the stream to which they are tributary.
The general direction of the flow of the Cuivre River is southeasterly until it enters section 31, in township 48, range 2 east, where it receives its principal tributary. Eagle Forks, or Big Creek; thence it flows northeasterly, emptying into the Mississippi River in section 9, township 48, range 3 east. These directions are, however, only general, for the river pursues a very winding and tortuous course, making many sharp bends and turning many short elbows. The river and Big Creek form the north and south boundary line between Saint Charles and Lincoln Counties. In the lower part of its course the river is scarcely more than a slough of the Mississippi, as witnesses the fact that for fifteen miles from its mouth no current is discernible, and that corresponding rise and fall in the water-surface is observable in accordance with the stage of water in the larger river. The total drainage area of the Cuivre River and its tributaries is estimated at one thousand five hundred square miles.
The country traversed by that portion of the river which was examined, a distance of twenty-eight miles, is essentially a farming one; is thickly settled, and kept in a high state of cultivation. The principal farming products are tobacco, wheat, and other grains, fruit in large quantities, and cattle. The lauds immediately adjacent to the river are principally bottom-lands; sloughs are of frequent occurrence, which often embrace between the river and themselves several hundred acres.
From Moscow Mills down to Big Creek the bottom-lands on the right are only a few hundred yards wide, and are bordered by uplands, which, in several places, strike the river and accompany it for short distances. These bottom-lands vary from H to Hi feet in height, and are annually overflowed to the depth of 16 to 8 feet; they are covered with a line growth of timber, consisting generally of burr-oak, Spanish or water-oak, elm, maple, bass, pecan, Cottonwood, willow, sycamore, and black walnut. A large business is annually done in timber and cord-wood, especially the latter, which is piled in large quantities along the banks, awaiting high water for shipment. The banks of the river generally stand at a slope of 1½ or 2 on 1, unless in the sharper bends, where they show evidences of annual wear.
Coal and iron largely abound in Lincoln County, in the range of township just north of that containing the river, and both minerals have been mined to a small extent. The coal is found in seams varying from 6 to 15 feet in thickness; is of excellent quality, remarkably free from sulphur (sic), and trial has shown it to be specially adapted for the production of gas. The coal strata outcrop in many places, and are generally mined by adits from the hill-side or from creek-bottoms. It is principally worked at present in sections 2, 11, 14, 23, and 26, township 49, range 1 west ; sections 27, 29, 34, and 36, township 49, range 2 west; section 1, township 48, range 1 west, and in that tier of sections for twelve miles westward. A company known as the “Lincoln County Coal and Mining Company” are proprietors of 5,000 acres of the coal-tract, and are making extensive preparations for carrying on the business largely as soon as the question of transportation becomes settled. The iron ore is the brown hematite variety; it has not been so largely worked as the coal, but is now looming up into importance. It has been found in workable quantities in sections 1, 2, 3, 4, &c., township 49, range 2 west; sections 34 and 35, township 50, range 2 west; and sections 32 and 33, town ship 50, range 1 west. A company have leased 3,000 acres of iron-lands, and intend to commence operations soon on a much more extensive scale than at present.
The question of internal improvements has been, during the past few years, agitated to a great extent in Lincoln and adjacent counties, and has resulted in the building of the Keokuk and Saint Louis Railroad by county subscription. Nine miles of grading have been finished in Lincoln County; eleven are under contract and will be finished in the early part of next month. The road as in process of construction between Moscow Mills and Big Creek is laid down on the map. The location of the road in Saint Charles County has not. been finished, but it departs from the river as it enters the county and intersects the North Missouri road at some point not yet definitely determined, but probably at the city of Saint Charles. In passing over the river I found such a difference existing in the obstructions met with, and in the general character of the stream between Moscow Mills and the mouth of Big Creek, and from the latter place to the mouth of the river, that I have divided the description of the river in these two divisions.
During the progress of the examination the river was at as low a stage, within a few inches, as ever known, and all soundings are referred to low water.
FROM MOSCOW MILLS TO BIG CREEK.
Moscow Mills is a small hamlet, and is only worthy of notice on account of the grist mill in operation there. A water-fall of 8 feet is procured by a wooden dam thrown across the river at this point. The maximum capacity of the mill is 20 bushels per hour, but in times of low water the mill uses more water per day of twelve hours than the river supplies, while running but half of the above maximum.
In moving down the river from Moscow, no less than eighteen shoals and narrow passages were encountered between that point and Big Creek, a distance of nine and a half miles. The shoals were generally above low-water mark, while in the narrow channel were a few inches of water, but not sufficient to float our boat. The fall in the water-surface over these shoals varied from 3 to 15 inches.
Snags were of very frequent occurrence, and on two occasions we were completely shut off from communication below by piles of drift-wood and snags, which had to be partially removed before further progress could be made. For a large portion of the distance, numerous overhanging trees were met with, which would impede navigation were it ever attempted.
On several occasions we also encountered islands of quite large extent, situated directly in the middle of the river, with narrow passages, with little depth of water, on each side. Two of these islands were 600 feet long and about 90 feet wide, covered with large trees, smaller vegetation and snags, and from 8 to 12 feet above low-water mark. A few deep holes were encountered, however, in which the water was from 4 to 12 feet deep, hut for no great distance.
As no continuous line of levels was run, I examined the notes of the Keokuk and Saint Louis Railroad, and found the difference of level between high-water marks at Moscow Mills and at the mouth of Big Creek to be 15.8 feet. Relying on the statements of residents in these, two places, I found the difference of level between high and low water marks at the former place to be 24.4 feet, and at the latter 25.9, which gives the fall in water-surface between these two places, a distance from each other nine and a half miles, 17.3 feet. In this portion of the river were counted 928 snags and sawyers or fallen trees, most of them lying in the channel.
In view of these facts, improvement of the river between Moscow Mills and Big Creek is impracticable, as the business of this portion of the river is not commensurate with the enormous cost which would result if improvement were attempted. No estimate is therefore made for improving this portion of the river.
It might be stated before conclusion that, several years ago, a small steamer found its way to Moscow Mills, but at a sacrifice of her chimneys and upper works in returning, and escaping only after great difficulties from remaining there until the recurrence of high water.
FROM BIG CREEK TO THE MOUTH OF THE RIVER.
Between these limits, a distance of eighteen and a half miles, the river is much better in its general character and depth of water, and but little fall in the surface of the water occurs, not exceeding 1½ feet.
At the mouth of Big Creek occurs a bar. Its dimensions are 850 feet in length, 190 feet wide, extending over the whole width of river, and a fall of 0.3 foot occurs in the water-surface. Its material is coarse gravel, which has been brought down by Big Creek, a stream which is susceptible to sudden rises, and passes from a sluggish creek into a torrent in a few minutes.
Passing down the river we find a good depth of water, varying from 4 to 8 feet, until we reach a shoal one and three-quarter miles from Big Creek. This shoal extends over the whole width of river, with an average of 2 feet of water upon it, and is 350 'feet in length. There is no apparent cause for the formation of this bar, unless it be from snags, a few of which are visible, and from the bends in the river below.
Continuing on, with from 5 to 11 feet depth of water, we reach White’s Branch Bar, three and a half miles from Big Creek. This shoal is a very serious obstruction to navigation, and on it occurs the only great fall in water-surface in the lower portion of the river. Its length is 800 feet. The form of this bar is peculiar, it being divided, into two portions by the narrow channel, which crosses it diagonally. The cause of this bar can be traced to a small creek, called White's Branch, which, flowing from the high bluffs back of the river in time of freshets, carries with it the coarse gravel of which the bar is composed.
From 6 to 10 feet depth of water was then met with until we reach a settlement called “Chain of Rocks,” four and a quarter miles from Big Creek, where two bars were found. The first bar is 300 feet long, 130 feet, or width of river, wide, with an average of 1.2 feet depth of water upon it. A snag was probably the primary cause of this bar. Then ensues a depth of water of from 5 to 9 feet for 750 in length, when we reach Seed-Tick Island Bar, caused by a small island 300 feet long and 60 feet in width, which, by diminishing the width of the river, prevents the free egress of the water above, and forms the bar. The length of this shoal is 1,200 feet, with an average of 1 foot of water upon it. At this point I obtained an iron bar, and sounded for rock underneath the gravel, but found none in several soundings to the depth of 3 feet below the gravel surface.
At eight and a half miles from Big Creek, we came to a hamlet called Monroe, containing a store and hotel, having met with an average of 6½ feet depth of water from Chain of Rocks.
At half a mile from Monroe was encountered a small bar, only 30 feet in length and extending entirely across the river, and which probably owes its origin to a snag; one-quarter of a mile farther on, a wrecked barge was met with, lying near the channel, and requiring removal. No other obstructions were encountered until at ten and three-quarter miles from Big Creek, when we reached the Ensaw or Shelton Bar. This shoal is 650 feet long, width of river, or 130 feet, wide, with an average of 1.8 feet of water upon it, and is situated directly in a bend of the river.
One-half mile below Shelton Bar we came to another shoal, 250 feet long, 130 feet, or width of river, wide, with 2.5 feet average depth of water upon it. Thence to the mouth of the river no other shoals were met with: the water varying from 6 to 12 feet in depth.
In the lower portion of the river, the shoals which I have just described were counted— four hundred and ninety-four fallen trees, sawyers, and snags ; most of these obstructions were, however, along shore, and not in the way of navigation, and only a small proportion of the number will require removal.
The Cuivre River empties into the Mississippi through a slough, include! Between Cuivre Island and the main land, through which boats have to pass to reach the river.
In the slough, going south from the mouth of the river, a general good depth of water is met with on the concave side of the bends, but the crossings, of which there are three, have but little water upon them, varying in depth from 0.5 to 2.5 feet. Another bar is found at junction of the slough and river.
The upper part of the slough contains one bar, but another exists at the head of Cuivre Island, at the entrance into the slough.
In the lower part of the slough were counted twenty-four snags, and in the upper sixty-five, only a few of which, in the channel, are required to be removed.
Notwithstanding the numerous obstructions to navigation, the commerce of the Cuivre River is considerable. The steamer Josephine, having the following dimensions, length 110 feet, 20 feet beam, 3½ feet depth of flotation when loaded, and a tonnage of 125 tons, was built with a special reference to the Cuivre River trade, and makes regular trips whenever the stage of water will allow.
In the year 1869-‘70 boats ran to Chain of Rocks from April to December, making often two trips a week; during the present year the depth of water only permitted them to run from March to July.
Chain of Rocks is the principal shipping-point for farmers in that vicinity; two freighting firms in the place, in connection with two variety-stores, do an annual business varying from $24,000 to $32,000. At Monroe considerable traffic is also carried on.
It is difficult to determine, with any degree of exactness, what the shipments on the river do amount to, as they are made at such places along the bank as are most convenient to the farmers for hauling their produce.
Were the river improved, the amount of commerce would be materially increased, as much of the freights which now find their way to Cap-au-Gris, on the Mississippi, would be hauled to the banks of the Cuivre, could reliance be placed upon their early shipment. One hundred tons a week, for six months of the year, would not, I think, be too large an estimate for the prospective business at Chain of Rocks alone.
But by far the strongest argument in favor of the improvement of the river is the opening it would afford for the coal and iron of Lincoln County to find market.
In order to successfully bring these minerals of this region into competition with those from other localities, it becomes necessary to have cheap rates of transportation, or, in other words, water-communication, and this can only be obtained through improving Current River.
Were the improvement effected, barges might be loaded with the minerals at the mouth of Big Creek, which had been brought down from the mines on the Keokuk and Saint Louis Railroad, and thence taken to any point on the larger western rivers.
The only inland town which would be greatly benefited by the improvement is Troy, the county-seat of Lincoln County, which has a population of about 1,000, and does an annual business of $245,000.
Below I give the bars in the order they occur, from the mouth of Big Creek, with an estimate of the material required to be removed from each, to give a depth of water of 4 and 6 feet respectively, at the lowest stage, with a width of channel of 80 feet, the effect of the falls in the water-surface which would result from the removal of White’s Branch Bar being taken into account:
I made the estimate for securing 6 feet of water, since the mining companies wish to use, in transporting their coal and ore, barges drawing from 5½ to 6 feet of water; with this depth, however, there exists the probability of striking rock in several places, especially at the place marked on the map as Cat Fish Rock, where the river was found to have a rock-bottom at a depth of from 5 to 6 and 10 feet ; and as this point is above White’s Branch Bar, the removal of which would cause a decrease in height of the water-surface above it of one foot, some rock would require excavation.
The material of all the bars, except the Shelton, and the small one below it, is very coarse, compacted gravel; the two latter bars are composed of finer material.
I present the following estimate of cost for improving the river by dredging the bars, removing snags, and also provide for an accurate survey of the river, and for engineering superintendence during improvement.
1. For 4 feet depth of water on bars.
Dredging and removal of 38,737 cubic yards of coarse gravel,
at $1 per cubic yard……….$38,737.00
Dredging and removal of 5,611 cubic yards of fine gravel,
at 50 cents per cubic yard………..$ 2,805.50
Seven days’ work of snag-boat……………………………………………..750.00
Dredge-boat in slough live days…………………………………………….500.00
Survey of river…………………………………………………………….1,500.00
Engineering expenses during improvement……………………………….4,000.00
2. For 6 feet depth of water on bars.
Dredging and removal of 63,303 cubic yards of coarse compacted gravel,
at $1 per cubic yard…$63,303.00
Dredging and removal of 11,366 cubic yards of fine gravel,
at 50 cents per cubic yard…..5,683.00
Snag and dredge boats………………………………………………………….1,250.00
Survey of river………………………………………………………………….1,500.00
Engineering expenses during improvement…………………………………….5,000.00
Excavation of rock, say…………………………………………………………4,000.00
These figures provide for the improvement of the river as far as Big Creek.
The interests of the country adjacent to the river do not actually require the removal of the Big Creek Bar, from the fact that, with a small expenditure, the railroad-switch could be carried below the bar, and the river would, still subserve all the purposes of the coal and iron companies.
If this bar should not be removed, the estimate would be reduced as follows:
For 4 feet depth of water, reduction of……………………….$14,615.00
For 6 feet depth of water, reduction of……………………….. 20,671.00
Leaving the estimate as below:
For expenses incurred in making the river navigable to within one-fourth
of a mile from mouth of Big Creek, with 4 feet depth of water……$33,677.50
With 6 feet depth of water……………………………………………………….60,065.00
In regard to the permanency of the improvement by opening the channel with a dredge, it is my opinion that, if a proper angle be given to the slopes of the channel, a number of years will pass before further dredging is required.
By damming such streams as the White’s Branch a short distance back from its mouth, a large proportion of the sediment could be kept out of the river.
A small annual expenditure will be necessary to keep a channel open in the slough a few days' work each year being sufficient to accomplish this result.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
A. H. BLAISDELL,
General W. F. Raynolds,
Lieutenant- Colonel, Corps of Engineers, U. S. A.