WATCH: Shocking Drone Footage Reveals Massive Sections of Dry Mississippi Riverbed

by Shelby Scott
(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The West has been enduring a megadrought for decades, with hot, dry weather conditions contributing to historic wildfires. However, drought conditions have also begun to affect some of the most iconic bodies of water in the United States. One body of water experiencing extreme drought conditions is the iconic Mississippi River. Drone footage reveals that rapidly depleted water levels have completely exposed much of the Mississippi riverbed.

Per the above tweet from The Weather Channel, the drone footage of the dry Mississippi riverbed was taken near Tiptonville, Tennessee. The drone takes in the vastness of the usually mighty Mississippi. It shows that much of the iconic river near this location has dried up. It also sees a small group of people making their way across the parched riverbed, taking in what looks like an old tire and a litany of tire tracks. 

Last week, the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center reported that a near-400-mile stretch of the river is at or below the low-water threshold. But what exactly does this mean? It means salt water from the Gulf of Mexico has begun to seep up the river in an effort to fill the open areas left across much of the Mississippi riverbed. Should the saltwater seep further upriver, it means much of the Mississippi’s safe drinking water becomes contaminated, threatening communities up and down the river’s banks.

Dry Mississippi Riverbed Leaves Barges Stranded, Affecting Agricultural Supply

While saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico potentially threatens populations on both sides of the Mississippi’s banks, it’s hardly the only major side effect of ongoing drought conditions. Because the Mississippi riverbed is so drastically exposed, barges have begun running aground. This then interrupts shipments of necessary agricultural goods and has a devastating effect on farmers nationwide. 

The historically low water levels have halted much of the transportation and shipping of grains and soybeans. This is especially significant as the Mississippi River carries 92% of the country’s agricultural exports. With barges carrying these shipments running aground, supplies are not reaching their destinations, putting a financial burden on farmers. 

The dry Mississippi riverbed is also halting the transportation of grains overall, another crucial export in America. Overall, the iconic river carries 60% of our nation’s grain exports as well as 78% of feed grains. Michael Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, expressed serious concern about the Mississippi’s exposed riverbed and its effect on agriculture. 

“[The Mississippi River is] a really integral part of our overall economy,” he began, “and it’s particularly so for agriculture.” 

Many Americans seriously began taking note of extreme drought conditions across the U.S. this summer. However, Steenhoek expressed concerns ahead of the New Year.

“A lot of the water that you see on the lower Mississippi River, it originally starts as a snowflake in Montana,” he explained. However, a lack of snowfall, combined with increased temperatures and decreased rain in warmer months, has completely devastated the Mississippi. All three have aided in the river’s historically low levels.

Steenhoek showed special concern as, “We are in the middle of the harvest season and this is the most active time.”