Working in the lower Illinois valley comes with certain inevitabilities: humidity, annoying bugs, and flooding. Almost every year, lively meal time discussions are quickly tempered by a reading of the latest river forecast. Are they predicting a crest yet? How about the rain up north? Wait…Remind me how high it was when it got into the museum last year. CAA and field school staff monitor both the Illinois and Mississippi rivers closely, the two bodies of water which make Calhoun County a peninsula. Because of this awareness the current state of our site’s access road did not take us by surprise this morning. Nevertheless, it’s still a remarkable sight… especially for our students from Arizona!

Red Baron sits at the edge of the flooded roadway.

Red Baron sits at the edge of the flooded roadway.

As you can see in the following pictures, the river has risen considerably. The road we take into the site is completely inundated.

To get a better idea of how deep the water was on the road, I waded in with my wellies and was quickly up to my knees in murky flood water. The current was noticeable. Fording the roadway would not be wise. After wading back out, I stood next to our field truck (Red Baron) and van. Jason gauged where the water would hit on each vehicle; well above the frame of the van and over halfway up the wheels of Red Baron. In short, we heeded the National Weather Service’s advice to “Turn Around, Don’t Drown.”

We are currently putting together a plan to get us back to our excavation units. The river isn’t predicted to drain low enough until well after our students leave, so waiting it out is not an option. In the meantime, our students are getting lots of training on laboratory methods such as artifact identification/tabulation and flotation. Stay tuned for more updates and keep your fingers crossed for no more rain!

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