Memphis’ Top Tourist Site This Week is the Mississippi River Flood Water

three generations of my family on historic mother's day

History & Mother’s Day come together

This weekend downtown Memphis has likely seen some of the biggest days of visitors in a long time. Granted, the Memphis in May festival brought a lot of people in, but since Friday, the crowds have been steadily growing. Many of the folks coming down to the river front live in Memphis and the surrounding area and just want to see history in the making. That’s exactly what we have been seeing.

I’ve made a couple of trips down to the river front to take photos since I last posted. For a minute, I wondered how I could combine two days in one post without confusing things and then I remembered…. yesterday (Saturday, May 7) was ugly & rainy, today was bright sun. I think it’s easily understood without me labeling which day it was snapped.

city sandbagging crew

city sandbagging crew at the trolley depot


It seems crystal clear to me that the historic nature of this flood is reaching people. Walking around with a good camera or a friend who knows even fewer strangers than I (which probably seems impossible to some!), I’ve had a chance to talk to people from all around Memphis:  Frayser to the north, South Memphis, Germantown, Bartlett, etc… more are asking questions about the floods of 1927 and 1937. I’d bet more people are finding copies of Rising Tide to review. The river is at 48 feet today and still rising so we definitely have a rising tide.

For our family, history is seen through my mom’s eyes. To see something so historic with her on Mother’s Day was interesting. She’s never seen the river this high either…. and we all realized that means this is an incredible sight to see. As we finished a Memphis lunch at Central BBQ, we headed downtown to see the river. We took a short detour through north Memphis, going along Saffarans to Front Street. and saw city employees continuing to pack and place sandbags around the trolley depot.

crowds walking along the Mississippi River

Families among the crowds walking along the Mississippi River


The crowds are growing daily and yesterday’s Grizzlies game gave lots of people as excuse to visit (I went to the game with my nephew!!!) On several previous visits I just grabbed the camera and ran out the door.  This weekend it seemed that most people were coming with their family. So, I fit in easily as yesterday & today included planned visits with family — three generations of my family today & four generations of a family of friends yesterday! People are capturing memories that will be discussed for decades to come.

People We Met

As I said earlier, we are finding that people from throughout the area are drawn to the parks along downtown’s Riverside Drive. In visiting with a few of the folks we’ve come across, it seems the shared experience of seeing something so historic creates a common bond. People want to know if you are directly impacted. If so, they want to offer best wishes. If not, people agree that it is lucky.

a woman who's considering evacuating her home in Raleigh

New mom trying to decide next steps

Saturday morning in the rain, we found ourselves talking to a woman who said she lived in Raleigh. She hasn’t seen water coming into her street, etc. But neighboring Frayser already has a lot of water there and living in the next community, she’s getting nervous. Having a newborn complicates the emotion running through too. She doesn’t want to jeopardize the baby’s safety but she’s unsure as to how much higher the water will rise.

Surprisingly, we saw people who were loading their week’s groceries onto pontoon boats to return to homes on Mud Island’s Harbor Town. We also met people who had been coming down but felt they should bring other family members down like a lady from Bartlett who went to get her brother & sister-in-law before making the trek down. There were people who hadn’t been down to the riverfront in years and weren’t too sure what their points of reference should be.

Riverboats are still doing cruises!

Riverboats are still doing cruises!

Still Welcoming Tourists

Much of Memphis isn’t threatened by floodwaters, so it was interesting to see that the Memphis Welcome Center was making sure it had services available for guests (rather than letting local sightseers take all the parking spaces). The smiles were on & pointers were given to all though!

As I went around today, I noticed that several of the “tourist” spots or services were still operational.

  • The one that was likely most surprising was the riverboats running.
  • Lots of folks are enjoying Beale Street as the water is a few block down hill from the music zone.
  • Scale-river of the Mississippi River

    My niece & her grandmom learning about the Mississippi River LAST SUMMER

    The Memphis Cotton Museum continues to help people understand the region’s history and importance in agriculture.

  • Civil rights in the South is the subject of the National Civil Rights Museum and a favorite for my family in learning.
  • The National Ornamental Metal Museumis not a well-known tourist site, but the view from high up on the south bluff is incredible these days!
  • The Peabody Hotel’s ducks are walking!
  • Memphis in May continues in full force too. I saw Memphis in May BBQ Fest teams loading in grills, etc this weekend and hope they like my part of Memphis!
One tourist spot that’s not open right now is Mud Island, which I expect may be closed for a little while yet. When it reopens, I hope lots of folks take time to check it out. The model of the river showing some of the dramatic changes in depth, etc is a great way to learn and kids enjoy playing in the water too!

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About Janice Person

I'm Janice & this blog is about my passions -- photography, travel, agriculture & whatever else comes to mind. Putting all those things together is intriguing to me…. I can spend a lot of time soaking it up! It's almost always a colorful adventure!

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6 Responses to Memphis’ Top Tourist Site This Week is the Mississippi River Flood Water

  1. margie clayman (@margieclayman) May 10, 2011 at 5:38 pm #

    Your documentation of this flooding is stunning in numerous ways. I hope that things start getting better soon. Your pictures really drive home what is going on down there, and unfortunately in many other places around the country as well. Hang in there.

    • JPlovesCOTTON May 10, 2011 at 6:26 pm #

      Thanks so much Margie. My family & I are fine. Our hearts go out to fellow residents and by telling this story for about a week, I have been able to help a few folks see my little part of the world. That’s worth it.


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