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Probing the depths of the Big Muddy: What does the bed of the Missouri River look like?

Presentation by Caroline Elliott, geologist with U.S. Geological Survey – River Studies Branch

USGS Geologist Caroline Elliott will share what her pallid sturgeon research has revealed about the hidden world of the bottom of the Missouri River, and share images of this murky and shifting environment.


A sonar painting of the bottom of the Missouri River at the mouth of Overton Chute near Rocheport. Courtesy USGS River Studies.

Time and Place

Tuesday, October 13, 2015
7:00 pm

Les Bourgeois Vineyards Bistro
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Presentation by Caroline Elliott, USGS River Studies Branch

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

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!

The Big Muddy is deep and mysterious.  One can’t just look down and see what is on the bottom the way you can in a clear Ozark stream.  Scientists from the USGS at CERC have developed a variety of tools to see through the murky river and watch what is happening on the bottom.  They use precise measurements to watch and measure the migration of sand dunes and we can see details like rocky outcrops and large trees on the bottom of the river.  Through the use of sonar they image fish like the pallid sturgeon as they swim upstream and even spawn in fast deep areas near the bottom of the river.

USGS Geologist Caroline Elliott will reveal what she’s learned about the hidden world of the bottom of the Missouri River, and share images of this murky and shifting environment.

Caroline’s research is part of the Comprehensive Sturgeon Project. Her team is measuring bedload transport rates and mapping out the parts of the river that are moving and parts of the river channel that are stable.  Our research questions for pallid sturgeon recruitment and survival involve determining if the places where pallid sturgeon are currently spawning in the Missouri River are stable enough to support successful incubation of sturgeon embryos.  When pallid sturgeon spawn they release eggs that adhere to rocky substrates in the river and we think these eggs require stable substrates for four to eight days before they hatch. Other questions related to bed and sand dune movement involve understanding how sturgeon move upstream through the river during their pre-spawning migrations and how drifting invertebrates many bottom-dwelling fish feed on move along the bed of the river.
They use sonar, specifically a multibeam echosounder and survey-grade GPS to map the bottom of the river.  They use an acoustic Doppler current profiler to map velocity flow fields in the river channel and several types of sonar and underwater cameras to view fish and sediment in the river.  We’ve made measurements at the bottom of the river in many places along the 811 miles of the Lower Missouri River downstream from Gavins Point Dam and on the Yellowstone River, a Missouri River tributary upstream in Montana and North Dakota.


  • 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.

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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 Columbia Ecological Services Field Office (USFWS) and the Mo. Dept. of Conservation.