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Bill Thayer

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Chapter 5

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Iowa As It Is in 1856

N. Howe Parker

Chicago and Philadelphia, 1856

The text is in the public domain.

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Chapter 7
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 p32  Chapter VI

Rivers and their Tributaries

No State in the Union is more bountifully supplied with water than Iowa; being bounded on the east by one of the finest rivers in the world — the Mississippi, and on the west by the Missouri; the interior of the State being traversed in every direction by noble, and in many cases navigable, streams; many of them running parallel to each other, from twelve to twenty miles apart, skirted with timber of from one to five miles in width. Our rivers have not the rapidity of the New-England streams, nor the depth and sluggishness of those of the South; but are clear, fresh, and healthy, of gentle current, and capable of furnishing water-power for all purposes.

The rivers that are directly tributary to the Mississippi are the Upper Iowa, Turkey, Maquoketa, Wapsipinnicon, Cedar, Iowa, Fox, Checaque (commonly called Skunk), and the Des Moines. Those running into the Missouri are Floyd's, Little Sioux, Inyan Yankee, Soldier, Boyer, Nishnabotna, Big Tarkeo, and Nodaway.

Some of these streams are navigable for a great distance, and the day is drawing nigh when the quiet of their banks shall be broken, and the shrill whistle of the heavily-laden steamer reverberate from shore to shore — when many of these streams shall have become thoroughfares for the  p33 transportation of the rich productions of this most fertile and most prosperous State. "The untold powers of some of these waters will soon be utilized for mechanical purposes; and but a short time will elapse ere the thunder and clatter of the ten thousand wheels of machinery will break upon that solitude which now echoes only to the harvest-song or the notes of the sweet warblers of the forest. Extensive works are already commenced upon more than one of these rivers which will stamp our greatness and convince the world that 'progress' is our watchword."

Besides those mentioned, are their tributaries — the creeks, branches, or rivulets, penetrating every portion of the interior of the State; springs of clear, cold water, also abound in all parts of the State. [Particular reference is made to the sites for water-power in different locations, in the letters from county-seats, in another portion of this work.]a

Thayer's Note:

a I.e., Chapters 16 thru 20 of this book.

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Page updated: 3 Sep 11