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Thicker than water: stories from the Missouri River

Four writers navigate the river's murky depths to discover how it's just as vicious as it is vital

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Missouri River drone

Big Bonne Femme Creek meets the Missouri River near Easley, Missouri. The creek got its name from an apocryphal tale about a wounded Frenchman and a Native American woman who cared for him, according to the State Historical Society of Missouri. To honor her kindness, he called the nearby stream "bonne femme," which means "good woman" in French. 

The Missouri River has a temperamental spirit. It is a source of life — supplying water for agriculture and industry; providing a venue for pastimes such as fishing, swimming and boat racing; and serving as inspiration for countless poems, songs and folktales. It has given and given and given, almost entirely to its own detriment. But it’s also a force to be respected, if not feared. Flooding has regularly wrecked the surrounding land and homes, and the river’s current can sweep human lives and possessions away in an instant. The Missouri River acts as a constant reminder of nature’s power over humankind.

The following stories illustrate the dueling personalities of the Missouri River. The river promotes American progress and prosperity. That same development, however, damages the river and its creatures. And at any time it wishes, the river can choose to protest its pain. Its muddy waters have long decided our fate, and their constant flow is forever worthy of nothing less than our reverence.

Scroll through the map and click on the links to read more about each story, or browse the collection below. 

Stories from the Missouri River

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