Flooding My Memories - The 1982 Flood
The fall of 1982 and spring of 1983 ware exceptionally wet. Experiencing
the flood which resulted from the continuos day after day of rain
was one of my rarest relic hunting opportunities. The event still
lives in my mind and because I love to find relics it keeps prodding
me to try to visit there again after floods.
I was living in Eureka, Missouri which is a small town outside of St. Louis
city limits about twenty miles. There had been smaller floods while I lived
there, as friends have told me it floods almost every year, although every
flood's intensity is different and causes different amounts of damages. Some
years it floods in the spring, other years in during the fall. It could be
a small flood, or like the flood of '93, so huge that it made national news,
and devastated lives throughout much of the Mississippi River basin. The flood
of '83 was not as cataclysmic as the flood of '93, yet even then the Meremec
River, tributary to the Mississippi, flooded at their junction for many miles
back along both river bottoms.
Eureka Missouri flooding in 1982
from the Skelly gas station looking North.
My hunting buddy Tom Commiskey and I would be out in the fields every weekend.
Sometimes both days, but for sure at least one of the two. The long trek
up and down the hills to fields, and once in the fields, tromping their seemingly
endless lengths. Tom lived in Kimmswick and the most direct route for him
to the field were winding back country roads. As the crow flies it might
only be a few miles, but by the twisting county roads, many miles, and much
more time. I would drive the fifteen miles from my house to the site to meet
him We would drink some coffee and discuss strategy for a while, all the
time we were looking out over the huge expanse of cultivated field. Seeing
the foothills covered with trees, and no one else around always made me think
of how this land must of looked just a short two hundred years ago.
The rivers and creeks we hunted in Jefferson and St. Louis counties. We liked
hunting along The Big River and The Meremec River as there were plenty of families
in the area we knew or a friend of ours knew, through which we could obtain
permission to hunt. The rivers there were what we referred to as two tiered.
The lowest terrace, where the river was located was usually forested, extended
anywhere from ten to thirty yards from the river in the river bottom area.
The second terrace was normally the cultivated field that could be fairly minimal
in size to very, very large. The lush Ozark foothills, adjacent to the river
bottom, form steep bluffs abutting the river on a side with the other far away
across the second terrace.
The forest that covers the hills which followed the river bottoms were thick
with wildlife and huge trees. The trees on the lowest rise along the river
were just as huge. Sometimes even more so since the tops were often the same
height as those at the start of the second rise, yet they had to grow fifteen
to twenty feet just to reach the second rise.
The rains kept coming and the river kept rising. A telephone call from some
friends scrambled my wife and I to help evacuate other friends who lived in
nearby Times Beach. The news forecast was calling for a record flood and the
townsfolk were notified they were in danger. (This being the flood which occurred
during the dioxin episode which events led to the "closing" of the
We traveled with others to the homes located close to Times Beach and started
loading trucks, cars and trailers with everything from out of the houses. Since
there were many friends who lived there, we all worked as a team, forming a
line, going in one door and out another grabbing an item in the house while
we walked through and dropping off the item at the vehicle being loaded. After
we had finished loading the vehicles and drove away we could not enter the
main road out of town due to the amount of traffic. All the while we labored
to excavate, those in St. Louis, hearing of the imminent flood, had traveled
to the area to see the water. As we sat in line waiting to exit we could actually
see the water rising, coming up the grass of the river bank and spreading across
The river kept coming. The town of Eureka was approximate one mile from the
river, and the flood waters reached the center of town. After the rains stopped,
the flood waters still rose as the rain from further upstream continued to
flow towards the town.
I traveled out the country roads, up and down the hills and on top of the ridges,
hoping to get to my happy hunting grounds. I was not shocked to find the road
flooded by the river where it come down out of the hills. The water was deep
over the road, and the entire vista out over the farm fields was now a lake.
The distant hills, now looked like islands. The farm located close to the hill
was invisible except for the top of the roof and chimney. I traveled to that
spot in the road every day to watch the water, waiting for the water to go
down, inch by inch.
After the river stopped rising and crested, it seemed that the water just sort
of stopped moving, and got much muddier. The mud left by the river is often
the worst result of the flood waters. The water and mud combine to destroy
or render useless almost everything it touches, covering like a brown paint
whose odor smells like an outhouse on a hot summer day.
Finally after what seemed like weeks of waiting, I saw that the water was going
to be low enough to travel across. Getting up early the next day which just
so happened to be a Saturday, I headed out happily towards the field. When
I pulled up at the field there was a car already there, an older man closing
the trunk and walking towards the drivers door. As I parked and walked over
to him and exchanged pleasantries, he said there were plenty still out there,
and he had to get home as he was tired. He showed me two large bags of points,
those I could make out looked like Etley's, and said they were all large points
and he did not even bother picking up anything less than five inches long.
We said good bye and I walked to the edge of the field, noting that the area
was saturated. Still being just past dawn, I was surprised to find the man
here so early, but not surprised that he may be tired. Not having traveled
twenty feet into the field I was already sinking past my ankles in sloppy mud,
and could not only feel but hear the sucking action of the mud as I lifted
I was amazed at the amount of flint in the field. Everywhere I looked
the ground was carpeted with flint chips and relics. The ground was furrowed
from the water action as it moved swiftly across the field. In the trough of
the furrow the flint was thick, being as wide as six to ten inches, and an
inch or two deep with flint. The upper areas around the troughs had been carpeted
with flint as well, but was not deep like that found in the troughs. I thought
about the foot or so of soil that had been washed away and all of the artifacts
which had been exposed and left on the surface. I knew the soil removed was
tremendous as the far corner of the field now had a mound of silt where the
field previously was flat as it meet the river. I knew from previous hunts
in the field that the farmers plow did not run in the direction of the flood
furrows as they were now. The field I was in was approximately one hundred
acres, so I knew I could only hunt a small portion.
I walked towards the North, towards the upper sandy area just at the
base of the foothills. This area is lightly sandy and gently slopes away from
the base forming a large plateau area. The flood furrows were less pronounced
here than closer to the river, but still visible. I walked around the area
picking up points with both hands, so busy I couldn't straightened up, just
staying in a sort of crouch. The ground color in the entire river bottom changed
as the subtle elevation changes took place, and up in this area the ground
was sandy and lighter still. The ground was a light color of brown, but in
places there seemed to be black areas - some were blacker than others. Trudging
across the area without crossing your own foot prints was fairly easy due to
making such large footprints in the mud. Even though the sun was out and the
air was getting warm, the ground was like oatmeal, and did not want to let
go of your feet.
Eventually, my legs started to grow very weary, and were aching, so I walked
away from the plateau to the area closer to the river where the furrows were
deepest. I was moving slower now but still gathering many relics. What would
normally take me fifteen to twenty minutes to walk now took me almost an hour
due to the muck and picking up relics.
I started picking up more relics as I walked to the east paralleling the river.
Every now and then I would stop and strengthen up. My back was really starting
to go, and so were my legs. The 'ol legs were already tingling from the exertion
of the long walk. During one of these times I rested, I turned around and looked
back up to where I was just an hour ago on the plateau. From a distance of
two hundred yards or so the black spots suddenly became obvious. Those spots
were the only remains of long ago Indian camp fires. From where I now stood
I could see three columns of five rows, evenly spaced in a rectangular fashion
on the plateau area. The "center" of each fire could be made out
as the darkest area with what appeared as a smudge towards the east caused
by the water action during the flood. I remembered the dark objects on the
ground up there so I walked back up towards the plateau, and what I had earlier
thought was garbage brought in from the flood, was really the charcoal remnants
from the campfires.
I filled up two canvas bank coin bags with whole points that day. Probably
over two hundred points. I left on the ground those broken, only selecting
complete specimens. For the better part of the day I was in the field slowly
moving across the field gathering relics. My legs hurt for a week from the
strain of pulling free of the muck. The next day in the morning when I went
to work as a computer operator for Citicorp, I was attempting to tear off some
reports from the printer, and found I could not bend my legs. I had to fall
back upon the wall behind the printer and let myself sort of fall and slide
down, my leg muscles being so weak and strained they could not support me in
a half crouched position, I would just fall over. Whenever I attempted to use
the staircase, I had no problem going up, but when I went down, I found that
every step made my leg wobble and buckle. The problems with bending my legs
grew worse over the next couple of days and then started to subside. For almost
two weeks I had a leg paralysis and weakness.
I still think about the flood and the relics I found then. A great majority
of my collection consists of those points found then during that event. The
memory of the campfires, and knowing I will probably never again see something
as rare makes me want to relive that period of my life. The flood waters, the
mud, the relics recovered, those types of memories are forever.
Eureka Missouri flooding in 1982
looking at Time Beach
1 The Times Beach, Eureka flood commenced during the first week of December
1982. It is still the flood of record for the lower Meramec River since the
start of gaging records in about 1920 at Times Beach. The peak discharge occurred
on December 6, 1982 and was gauged as 145,000 cubic feet per second, estimated
as a 50-100 year event. Only the August 1915 flood may have been greater than
the 1982 event. Basically every structure in Times Beach was extensively damaged
and many were destroyed. Even without the dioxin problem, Times Beach may not
have recovered. Correspondence with Gary R. Dyhouse ,The US Army Corps of Engineers,
St. Louis District.
For comparison of the flood of 1983 to the flood of 1993, during
the flood of 1993 the peak stage exceeded the previous record flood
of record by 6.2 feet. The duration of flooding at high stages
was unprecedented with the flood waters 10 feet or more over flood
stage for 36 days, exceeded the "50-year flood" stage
for 23 days and exceeded the "100-year flood" stage for
8 days. The total period of time the waters level was greater than
flood stage during 1993 exceeded 130 days Before 1993, there were
only 12 days total in the entire period of record, dating back
to 1861, that exceeded flood stage by 10 feet or more. The Mississippi
River at St. Louis exceeded flood stage late on June 26 and briefly
dropped below flood stage (30 feet) on September 13, a total duration
above flood stage of 80 days. At the maximum flow rate, enough
sediment was passing St. Louis each day during the flood of '93
to build a farm of 4000-6000 acres (6.25-9.37 square miles) one
foot deep. 2 While the flood of 1983 was not as great in magnitude
of water damage or amount, the flooding of the area surrounding
St. Louis in the floodplains was extensive. The "Davis Pipe," was
found in the fields surrounding Eureka approximately at this time.
See Central States Archaeological Journal April, 1987 for more
information on the Davis Squirrel Pipe.
2 - MYTHS AND MISCONCEPTIONS OF THE 1993 FLOOD By Gary R. Dyhouse, The
US Army Corps of Engineers, St. Louis District
August 21, 1997
© 1997 Jeff Anderson