That’s the Mingo River behind me. It’s part of the Mingo National Wildlife Refuge in Stoddard County in the Bootheel of Southeast Missouri. Geologists tell us that 25,000 years ago this muddy slough was the main channel of the Mississippi River! It’s named after a group of Iroquois speaking Seneca and Cayuga Indians that moved into the area in the 1830’s on their way from Ohio to Oklahoma. The Mingo would be a lot larger today if the water inflow into it were not blocked by the Castor River Diversion Channel, beginning about ten miles north of this spot and diverting runoff from the Ozark Mountains into the Mississippi River fifty miles to the east. That’s part of the Little River Drainage District, the largest drainage project in the United States, and it drains 500 square miles of what was impenetrable swamp but is now the best farm land in the world. That story, beginning with those Indians is the subject of my next book. In my last post I showed what some of that land looks like today. I was going to call the book Bootheel, but I think Mingo River sounds better.
If any of my Bootheel friends have old family tales that have been passed down from their ancestors about the draining of the swamp, give me a call or send me an email. This will be historical fiction, so names would be changed. Shamelessly using other people’s stories is what we authors do. We call it research.