Minnesota Historical Society

River We Have Wrought: A History of the Upper Mississippi

$ 18.95

The sweeping history of the upper Mississippi and how it's been changed by human intervention.

The River We Have Wrought is a landmark history of the upper Mississippi, from early European exploration through the completion of a navigable channel and a system of locks and dams in the mid-twentieth century.

One of the world's largest and most powerful rivers, the Mississippi became the waterway we know today after massive engineering efforts. Previously, it was often shallow and full of sandbars, snags, and mile-long rapids. Shipping goods and people from St. Louis to St. Paul was arduous and expensive on the natural river, so the farmers and merchants of the region demanded that the federal government transform the upper Mississippi. As a result, in 1930 Congress authorized a system of locks and dams that has revolutionized shipping and, by extension, life in the Midwest.

Anfinson explores the origins of navigation improvements and traces the physical design of the river to the grain empire's feud with railroads and to the politics of port cities. He also reveals how the conservation movement rose to challenge navigation's supremacy, questioning the impact of the locks and dams on the ecology of the river.

At a time when the role of such public works and their impact on the environment is being intensely debated, The River We Have Wrought is an essential examination of how politics has shaped the landscapes of the Upper Midwest and how taming the river has affected economic sustainability, river ecology, and biological diversity.


  • By: John O. Anfinson
  • Format: Paperback, 388 pp., 27 halftones, 3 line art, 9 tables; 5 7/8 x 9 in.
  • Publisher: University of Minnesota Press (March 2003)
  • Product ##: 978-0816640249


John O. Anfinson is a historian with the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. For nearly twenty years he was the historian for the Saint Paul District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He is a founding board member of the Friends of the Mississippi River, an organization dedicated to improving the Mississippi's environmental health in the Twin Cities.

Minneapolis Star-Tribune

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