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Monday, Aug. 31, 2015

Update: Causeway to Devil's Island has partially collapsed

Posted Sunday, January 8, 2012, at 9:42 PM

Last year's flooding has taken its toll at Devil's Island, an island in the Mississippi River just across from McClure, Illinois.

When the river was low enough, it was possible to walk to the island across a crumbling concrete causeway. Unfortunately, the crossing has since crumbled even more, collapsing in two places. The south end -- which was already a challenge to reach -- has slumped. Reaching the causeway now requires sliding down a steep and very unstable embankment.

Meanwhile, the river current has broken through the middle of the causeway, leaving a serious gap.

I suppose the truly adventurous might still be able to reach the island by jumping across the gap. However, the main reason to visit at this time of year is to look for bald eagles -- and that usually means lugging expensive camera gear and a big telephoto lens. I wouldn't want to try juggling that while scrambling across.

Devil's Island is a State Wildlife Management Area. I can't imagine that Illinois will ever have any motivation to repair the causeway.

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

As usual James, interesting blog complete with outstanding photos. Like you mentioned, with the financial situation in Illinois, it is doubtful land access will ever be restored.

-- Posted by electron312 on Sun, Jan 8, 2012, at 10:46 PM

James, I've never been to this location but it looks like an awesome location for eagle watching. But your report of the the causeway collapse would make you think about the logistics of getting to the island. Your pictures are great! Since I've never been there, it's kind of difficult to tell how steep of a grade that embankment might be. A length of rope to anchor somewhere at the top might help in getting up and down the embankment. How wide is the gap in the causeway? Is it under five feet or over five feet? Another length of rope might be helpful there too.

When I'm traveling in rough terrain, I pack my 70-200 mm lens in a bag just large enough to hold it, a few flash cards, an extra battery and some lens tissue and sling it around my neck and shoulders. I put my wide angle lens on the camera and mount it to the tripod and put the camera strap around my neck. If I need my hands free for balancing over a rough spot, my hands are free with that set up. The tripod can also serve as a "walking stick" if need be, even in water. The water will not hurt the tripod.

You'd have to use the buddy system. One person could go down the embankment. The person at the top could lower the gear down, then the second person could head down the embankment. Depending on width of the gap over the water, you should probably be wearing some water proof boots. From the image, it does appear that there may be a few relatively stable spots to stand. Again the buddy system could be used there too. One person could cross, then pass the gear over the gap, then the other person cross the gap. This would be challenging but, depending upon the size of that gap, it's probably not impossible.

I live in MO but I do understand that IL does have financial difficulties. A citizen organization and private donations is probably the only way the causeway would be stabilized or repaired. Good things can happen when the private sector cares about something.

-- Posted by SweetSexySharon on Mon, Jan 9, 2012, at 9:57 AM

Sharon: The gap was worse than what the photo suggests. It's just narrow enough that somebody could make the jump if they were lucky, but just wide enough that they could find themselves swimming in the river if they were unlucky. The current is pretty swift through the gap.

The river stage was 14 when I visited. At lower stages, it might be easier to cross. Last year I was able to cross at a river stage of 17, but I don't think that will be possible anymore.

-- Posted by James Baughn on Mon, Jan 9, 2012, at 12:26 PM

James, that's sad that the gap is that large. And a swift current will only widen the gap over time. A tree snag floating through there during times of flood could make it wider.

It's seems like it's an interesting place to visit. But old man river seems to be doing his best to reclaim the location.

I'm guessing the only way to safely access the island now is by boat. Since I don't own a boat, that leaves me out. Bummer.

I'm sure that everyone appreciates your time and effort in documenting the deterioration to the causeway. Thank you James!

-- Posted by SweetSexySharon on Mon, Jan 9, 2012, at 12:42 PM

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The webmaster of seMissourian.com and its sister newspapers, James Baughn has lost track of the number of websites he manages. On the side, he maintains even more sites, including Bridgehunter.com, LandmarkHunter.com, TheCapeRock.com, and Humorix.
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