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The Day The Mississippi River Flowed Backwards

By  | October 3, 2018 | Filed under: Interesting Facts, News


newmadrid_artThe earthquake was so powerful, that it caused the Mississippi river to flow backwards and caused exotic ‘Sand Blows‘. Sand blows are essentially sand volcanoes which spew dirt and sand up from the ground. The violent tremors caused the land underneath the sand layers to shift and bulge, which caused the pockets of sand to pop out of the ground in towering spurts.

The New Madrid earthquakes, after the Missouri town that was the largest settlement on the Mississippi River between St. Louis, Missouri and Natchez, Mississippi.  The New Madrid

4000 earthquake reports since 1974

4000 earthquake reports since 1974

earthquakes of 1811-1812 rank as some of the largest in the United States since its settlement by Europeans.The earthquakes caused the ground to rise and fall – bending the trees until their branches intertwined and opening deep cracks in the ground. Deep seated landslides occurred along the steeper bluffs and hillslides; large areas of land were uplifted permanently; and still larger areas sank and were covered with water that erupted through fissures or craterlets. Huge waves on the Mississippi River overwhelmed many boats and washed others high onto the shore. Some say the Liberty Bell  in Philadelphia rang from the earth tremors that day.

newmadrid_riverboatThe earthquakes covered an area of 78,000 – 129,000 square kilometers, extending from Cairo, Illinois, to Memphis, Tennessee, and from Crowley’s Ridge in northeastern Arkansas to Chickasaw Bluffs, Tennessee. Only one life was lost in falling buildings at New Madrid, but chimneys were toppled and log cabins were thrown down as far distant as Cincinnati, Ohio, St. Louis, Missouri, and in many places in Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee.

The Mississippi river flowed backwards temporarily due the quake shifting around the land. Once the land was settled and the quakes had ceased, the river begun to flow normally again. The river hasn’t flowed backwards since.



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