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Interception at Airplane Island – a new model for Missouri River habitat

NOTE – This month’s presentation will be the THIRD Tuesday of the month to avoid Election Day.

Presentation by Michael Chapman, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas City District

Michael Chapman, Chief of Engineering and Restoration of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Kansas City District, will discuss how science is guiding the building of new habitat models on the Missouri River and describe what changes we can expect on one of our favorite recreational sandbars here in the Manitou Bluffs region: Airplane Island, or Tadpole Island across the river from Katfish Katy’s.


This sandbar island just downstream of Airplane Island shows the important interface between variable sandbar and shallow water habitat that is so crucial for young fish. photo by Steve Schnarr

Time and Place

Tuesday, November 15, 2016
7:00 pm

Les Bourgeois Vineyards Bistro
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Presentation by Michael Chapman,  Chief of River Engineering and Restoration Section, Kansas City District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Tuesday, November 15, 2016
(Third Tues. this month)

If you intend on coming early to purchase an amazing dinner at Les Bourgeois Bistro before the presentation, PLEASE call to make a reservation at: 573-698-2300 and…tell them you are with the Big Muddy Speaker Series!

Presentation is FREE and open to the public!

Beginning this winter or next spring, the Corps of Engineers will be working on a new river habitat project in the mid-Missouri area. Focused on the sandbar that is known locally as “Airplane Island” (also known as Tadpole Island Sandbar, part of the Overton South Unit of the Big Muddy National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, located across the river from the Katfish Katy’s boat ramp), this project will be re-engineering the sandbar to provide “interception habitat” for young endangered pallid sturgeon.

Searcy's Bend

This photo shows the Missouri River looking downstream from about river mile 181, known as Searcy’s Bend. The wooded island is Tadpole Island. The collections of sandbars adjacent to the channel are known locally as Airplane Island.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas City District.

Biologists have discovered that very young pallid sturgeon, from newly hatched to one year old, are the most vulnerable stage in the fishes’ life cycle, and where most of the recruitment loss happens. Once pallid sturgeon hatch, they drift for about 10 days downstream, feeding on their yolk sac. By the time they are ready to feed on their own, they have their greatest success if they have found a slower, shallower and more protected habitat than the swifter main channel where the adult sturgeon live.

This new project, known as “Searcy’s Bend Interception-Rearing Complex Habitat”, is designed to use river currents to draw free-drifting sturgeon into this more protected habitat behind the sandbar. To create this new current flow, some existing rock dikes will be removed or redesigned, while new dikes will be added to the sandbar itself to hopefully build up the sandbar.

Michael Chapman, Chief of Engineering and Restoration of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Kansas City District, will share the purposes of this new habitat model, along with what changes we can expect on one of our favorite recreational sandbars here in the Manitou Bluffs region.


  • 14020 W. Hwy BB, Rocheport, MO
  • Take I-70 to the Rocheport, MO, exit (Exit #115). It’s the first exit east of the Missouri River.
  • Head north toward Rocheport.
  • After about a mile, turn left at the sign for Les Bourgeois Bistro. Follow the signs to the Bistro. You will probably need to park in the lot above the Bistro and walk the trail down.
  • The presentations are held in upstairs in the restaurant. The restaurant is no longer open on Tuesdays but the bar is! You are welcome to bring your own food or snacks.

Resources & Links

Dig Deeper for more details –

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 Big Muddy Speaker Series is partially funded by the Mo. Dept. of Conservation.