Wednesday, April 24, 2013

MUD ISLAND RIVER WALK, MEMPHIS.

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A place not to miss when you travel to Memphis is the river walk on Mud Island. The best way to do it is park your car at the Visitors Center, walk across the street and take the tram across to Mud Island, so-called because it was at one time a natural sandbar. Dredging mud to deepen the channel made it big enough to turn into a great park.
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Enjoy the views from the gondola ,or you can walk over on the walking bridge above the tram. We enjoyed very  much the John Grisham movie The Firm much of which was filmed in Memphis. Particularly memorable was a tense scene from this gondola and the mezzinine where you disembark near the escalators. We decided to re-watch the movie just to see it again.
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From the mezzanine, you peer down on a miniature replica of the Mississippi River and its environs as it passes through every state, from its source in Minnesota, to its ending in the Gulf of Mexico. I’ve been here previously and I love this park. Unique, educational, beautiful and stimulating.
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The cement floor of the river bed details every little elevation and bank and floodplain. It features the rivers, levees, bridges  and  places where the river has dramatically changed course and no longer flows. The park is only a half mile long. The scale is every 30 inches, one step, is a mile.
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When you cross from one state to the next, the border is clearly marked.
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All the major cities along the way are plotted in grey slate with their bridges both rail and car built across the river.
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An oxbow is a section where the river once flowed and was then cut off and now contains a lake or a dry bed.
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At this spot, you can see the miniature river along with the real Mississippi rolling along beside the park and a real bridge in the background. The park offers many places to sit and watch. One couple I talked to had chosen to follow a leaf and watch it make the entire trip just for the fun of it.
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Jim enjoyed cities he has visited. Here he stands in Natchez, across from Vidalia, Louisiana. Kids here love to take off their shoes and play in the water or float little boats. There are picnic tables and lawn aplenty.
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As you pass from state to state, the plantings along the miniature river match the flora and fauna of that state. Story boards identify the plant life as you pass through each state.
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If you’ve ever viewed a major river from the air, you know it resembles this curving, snake-like path. The  river has carved the earth and given life to humans and animals for thousands of years. Some people walk down one side and back on the other. We often stepped over the river to see both sides because it is so easy to do.
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Here we are at the sprawling contours of New Orleans. To the right is a cafe where you can lunch before heading back. To the left a small lake with a fountain. But the Mississippi doesn’t actually end here.
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We chose to follow it to the small deltas where the river is building islands that will one day be one solid piece. We found 1/B, a spot of one of our unique adventures, our trip to Pilots Island.
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We hired a boat to take us to Pilottown in 2010.  There isn’t much there, but we enjoyed the  adventure for many reasons.  It was fun to see it designated at the very tip of the Gulf of Mexico where the river meets ocean.  A ticket for seniors at $9 includes the tram, the river walk and the museum.
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The museum is very thorough. It gives early Native American History, which we skipped because we’ve seen so much of it. Here is riverboat history. Above are boat builders tools.
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Steamboat whistles.
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Inside a typical passengers berth on a steam-powered paddle wheeler. The river is dangerous. Awful accidents killed many. There was a film about disasters on the river. The saddest, the sinking of the Sultana.
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A  section on slavery and sharecroppers that built the south. And, another section on how the blues developed from the black churches and field hollers from slave days. It gives very interesting lyrics and clips of old-time music. Lyrics and music that Scott Joplin put on paper and saved. His own tragic story is here as well. Ragtime piano, opera, one of his that failed during his lifetime has been produced and put on stage to great acclaim.
I’m still struggling to walk a half-mile even with plenty of rest stops. We go this morning for a second  acupuncture treatment. But, I see signs of wellness and hope.

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