By Cade Cleavelin
A year after floodwaters scoured farmland along the Missouri River, massive river sand dunes have created new, desert-like “micro-environments” on what once was productive ground.
Atchison County Sheriff Dennis Martin described the terrain in the flood’s immediate aftermath as “moon-like”, with rolling pale-grey dunes and no vegetation.
Now, a year later, the splayed sands have persisted, and some prairie plants have begun to populate the area.
“There are some dunes that are still around from the flood of ’93,” USGS Hydrologist Robb Jacobson said. “A few of them even have prickly pear cactus on them. It’s like a micro-desert ecosystem.”
Many farmers have been able to reclaim land by tilling sand back into the floodplain’s sticky, dense “gumbo soil,” but in places where dunes have formed several meters high, it’s likely they’ll stick around for up to several decades.
–Edited by Brendan Gibbons