The Missouri River: Then & Now

Published: June 12, 2018

Bodmer - Snags

Swiss painter Karl Bodmer captured this painting on a steamboat trip to the Upper Missouri River in 1833. The painting shows the treacherous snag filled shallows of the unchannelized Missouri River.

Presentation by historian and Arrow Rock State Historic Site Administrator Michael Dickey, Mo. Dept of Natural Resources

Original Presentation was Tuesday, June 12, 2018

at the Les Bourgeois Bistro in Rocheport, MO. 

Hosted by Missouri River Relief

The Missouri River we enjoy today is a completely different character than the river that Native tribes lived with and Lewis and Clark’s crew poled up against. The historic river was on average 3 times wider, several hundred miles longer, carried 5 times more sediment and could never decide one day to the next just where it wanted to be. Its flood pulses reflected the seasons as they played out across the river’s massive watershed.

The challenges that steamboats encountered on this wild river in the 1800’s led to a push in the mid-1900’s to tame, deepen, channelize and straighten the Missouri River for navigation and to stabilize its banks for agriculture. This highly successful river engineering project has been followed by an effort to restore a few pieces of habitat lost during the channelization.

Historian Mike Dickey, one of the Big Muddy Speaker Series most popular repeat presenters, shared some of the ancestral spirit of the Missouri River to help us understand why we have made some of our management decisions in the past and to better understand some of the nature of the Big Muddy that we’ve lost.

Mike Dickey

Mike Dickey presented to a full house of 80 attendees at the Big Muddy Speaker Series at Les Bourgeois Bistro.

Michael Dickey has been employed by Missouri State Parks since 1986.  He is currently the administrator of Arrow Rock, Boone’s Lick and Sappington Cemetery state historic sites. He is a board member of the Boonslick Historical Society and a past board member of the Santa Fe Trail Association. 

Mike is the author of two books “Arrow Rock: Crossroads of the Missouri Frontier” which won the Missouri Governor’s Humanities Award in 2005. He also wrote “The People of the River’s Mouth: The Search for the Missouria Indians” in 2011, the first book ever published about the native people from whom the river and state took its name.  In 2014 he co-authored a chapter of “Archaeology of the War of 1812.”

Mike has been a lifelong student of Missouri’s natural and cultural history and Native American history and cultures.  He has collaborated on projects with the Osage Tribal Museum and the Wah-Zha-Zhi Cultural Center of the Osage Nation in Pawhuska, Oklahoma and has connections with the Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Red Rock, Oklahoma and the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska.

The Big Muddy Speaker Series in Rocheport

is hosted by these wonderful partners.

Click here for a list of upcoming presentations»

Special thanks to Les Bourgeois Vineyards for giving us the opportunity to use their beautiful space overlooking the Missouri River. All speakers are presenting for free! Thank you all for sharing your knowledge with us!

The Big Muddy Speaker Series also takes place monthly in Kansas City and St. Charles.


The views and opinions expressed by our presenters do not necessarily reflect the view or policies of Missouri River Relief, the Big Muddy Speaker Series or any of the partners that support this public forum. The Big Muddy Speaker Series believes that hearing diverse perspectives is a crucial building block for an informed public.


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