Water & Watersheds
By John Shepard
An obscure sanctuary harboring some of the world's oldest and grandest cypress trees. An intimate interview with a 78-year-old Mississippi Delta blues legend. Glimpses into the world occupied by ancient Mississippi valley mound builders. A giant (348'-long) painted panorama of the Mississippi River—the only surviving example of an art form that was popular in the mid-1800s that is now on display at the St. Louis Art Museum.
A Mississippi River Journey—Headwaters to Delta—in Five Minutes
For land-based travelers, the river is often frustratingly out of view behind levee walls and the wooded floodplain. I was able to achieve an aerial perspective in many places, however, due to an amazing new flying camera (the 3DR Solo), and a helicopter flight used to capture images of New Orleans' post-Katrina flood-control system and the heavy shipping traffic on the Big River.
Between the two, the drone revealed the most unexpected surprises: the Mississippi's vastness where it has received the waters of the Missouri. Seeing the upper river valley as an eagle would, soaring beside 400-foot bluffs. And at the top of two huge trees discovering naked, weathered branches that were pointing skyward like gnarled fingers above the lush canopy. One tree is Minnesota's biggest white pine at Lake Itasca. The other is a cypress more than 1,000 years old and 2,000 miles downstream in rural Mississippi.