Thursday, February 21, 2008

Memphis, "The Bluff City"


After seeing the photo yesterday of the riverside park on Mud Island, Annie of Little Rock Daily Photo asked about Memphis' bluffs along the Mississippi River, and whether they are truly high enough to prevent flooding.
Memphis is known as "The Bluff City", and this area along the river was chosen specifically for the high bluffs, which are part of the Chickasaw Bluffs. According to the entry about the Chickasaw Bluff in Wikipedia, "The Chickasaw Bluff secured Memphis from river floods, while a rare shelf of sandstone below provided a secure boat landing, making this the "only site for a commercial mart" between the Ohio River and Vicksburg, Mississippi." You can read the entire passage about this bluff system here.

If you are visiting Memphis, you will notice that the highest bluffs center around the original downtown area---those early settlers knew which areas were most advantageous, didn't they? As you follow the areas more recently developed along the river---north and south of that original area of settlement---the bluffs sometimes aren't quite as high or dramatic. The park on Mud Island (shown yesterday) is more prone to flooding during the Spring as the river rises due to Spring rains and the snow thaws north of Memphis, although I rarely see the water rise past that first flat area of the park. The residential area to the right in the photo yesterday is actually quite a few feet higher than the park area next to the river.

In the two photos above, you can see the view (first looking north, and then south) from the higher bluffs along a residential area overlooking Riverside Drive. These photos were both taken from the same spot in Butler Park, a small park overlooking the river and the park on the other side of Riverside Drive. The Mud Island photo, shown yesterday, featured the area north of the M Bridge, the Pyramid, and the Morgan Keegan Tower (the brown building to the right, with the spire on top) as seen in the first photo. The Morgan Keegan Tower (including its spire in its height measurement) is the second tallest building in Memphis. You can read more about it here.

These photos don't provide the full impact of standing on the bluffs in person. They are actually quite high and steep, and allow a very nice view of the entire riverfront area. The next time I'm downtown, I will try to take photos looking up at the bluffs, to try to share a different view and the true majesty of the bluffs.

7 comments:

Dusty Lens said...

I am always amazed by the width of the Mississippi River down your way. We do see the river rise considerably up our way. I can only imagine how it affects the cities downriver. Glad Memphis is up high.

J. Andrew Lockhart said...

Beautiful! I love the 1st one where you can see the bridge.

Annie said...

Thank you, Southern Heart, for your explanation about the bluffs. It's reassuring to know that flooding on Mud Island is quite unlikely. I have always wondered about that.

Dan said...

Great pics this morning and thanks for the history of the area. I always find local history facinating.

Rambling Round said...

Great view from the bluffs

Jana said...

What a view!

Anonymous said...

Your website is beautiful and I am happy you live in a place that suits you so well. I lived in Memphis in 1968 and found it the most hateful place I had ever encountered and it still holds that distinction so many years later. I worked for the phone company and when Martin Luther King was killed, the women in my office cheered out loud. I could not enter the break room because I could not stand to listen to their racial comments. I was a service representative and of course there were no African Americans working in my office. There were still separate facilities for whites and blacks including schools, drinking fountains, and laundries. I did enjoy the musical scene and spent time listening to music on Beale Street with Furry Lewis and some of his fellow musicians. I had to be careful though because Jim Crow laws were still enforced and it was illegal for me to fraternize with the folks at Beale and Linden. The azaleas were lovely but the people were the most mean spirited and cruel I have ever encountered.