River of Sand – The Bottom of the Big Muddy

Published: May 12, 2020

Coopers Landing Riverbed

A map created by Carrie Elliott and crew of the river bed from milemarker 170-171 on the Missouri River.

Presentation by Carrie Elliott, USGS River Studies Branch

Hosted by Missouri River Relief via Zoom
Streaming sponsored by Rivermiles, the folks that bring you the MR340

Original Presentation on Tuesday, May 12, 2020

When you look at the surface of the Big Muddy do you wonder about what is going on below?  Let’s explore what the U.S. Geological Survey has been learning about what is happening on the bottom of the Missouri River.

The riverbed is dynamic and changes as flows go up and down. Carrie Elliott and her colleagues at the USGS have been surveying the Missouri River to help understand pallid sturgeon habitat since 2008. They have mapped moving sand dunes, deep holes, trees, and rocky outcrops on the bottom of the river. Carrie shared some of the insights they’ve found about the bottom of the Big Muddy.

During the flood of 2019 they mapped the same 2-mile long reach of the Missouri River near Lexington, Missouri nine times and found some interesting changes in the sand dunes on the river bed over the course of the flood event. There was a lot of water, and it was moving faster than usual, but the biggest challenge in mapping during the flood last summer during the flood was finding an accessible boat ramp. In addition to highlighting some of the flood work, Carrie will share some interesting maps from a few sites you might recognize around Boone County.

Geologist Carrie Elliott, USGS

Geologist Carrie Elliott, USGS

Carrie Elliott has worked on Missouri River habitat dynamics for the U.S. Geological Survey at the Columbia Environmental Research Center since 2002.  She has a master’s degree from Utah State University and her work with the River Studies Branch has addressed physical habitat on large rivers at multiple spatial scales using a variety field, GIS, and remote-sensing tools.  She has worked closely with biologists on a variety of interdisciplinary projects related to river corridor habitats and geomorphology from hydroacoustic mapping to landscape-scale habitat classification.

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The Big Muddy Speaker Series in Rocheport

is hosted by these wonderful partners.

Streaming is sponsored by Rivermiles, the folks who bring you the MR340.

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!

And a special tip of the hat to volunteer David Owens who has been doing the sound for the Speaker Series for several years.

Our thanks to Dave and the good people of MoRivCC who are video recording these presentations when possible.

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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