Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick

The Island in the Des Moines River

For many years an island existed along the south bank in the Des Moines River about a mile downstream from the Douds-Leando bridge, just below the mouth of Holcomb Creek. In spring and summer the little island appeared green with dense underbrush and full-grown cottonwood trees.

Water once flowed between the island and the mainland most of the year. During times of low water, a huge sandbar off the northeast side gave some indication that a second island might be in the process of formation.

During the flood of 1947, the little island was engulfed in water and only the tops of the trees remained visible. When the high water subsided, the island still existed but its appearance had dramatically changed. Driftwood was lodged between the island and mainland. Silting helped fill in the area and this process was greatly increased by the successive small floods of 1952 and 1954.

By the mid-1950s the island was simply a peninsula, an extension of the mainland. Once this happened, the currents chipped away at the banks until little if any evidence remained of the islandís existence.

On one occasion, I ventured out to the island with my cousin Ted Fellows. We had to use a rowboat and tie it securely to driftwood along the bank. The island was no larger than forty feet wide and sixty to eighty feet in length, but it appeared considerably larger in real life than it did from the river bridge a mile away.

Carefully, we crossed over the driftwood along the south side of the island so as not to mire down in the gumbo mud below. After a few feet, the mud gave way to a small, sandy, rocky beach which surrounded the land. A short climb up the bank from the river was a flat area covered with thick, tall grass and brush. A dozen or more full grown trees included nut varieties and several tall cottonwoods.

Exploring the island was fun. We really felt like Indian scouts as we investigated every square inch of this marvelous piece of land. Ted and I gathered kindling and built a small campfire to cook the lunch we brought with us, which we enjoyed as we sat and waved at cars crossing the bridge in the far distance.

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick