Muscatine County Iowa

Source: Portrait and Biographical Album, Muscatine County, Iowa, 1889, page 584

Geographical & Topographical.

Muscatine County is bounded on the north by Cedar and Scott Counties, and on the south by Louise County and the Mississippi River, on the east by Scott County and the Mississippi River, and on the west by Louisa and Johnson Counties. Prof. F. M. Witter, a member of the Academy of Science and Superintendent of the Public Schools of Muscatine County, published by the Western Historical Company, an article upon this subject, from which the following extracts are taken:

The Mississippi River forms the southern boundary of the county for about fourteen miles, beginning on the east, and the eastern boundary for about six miles, making almost a right angle at the city of Muscatine. The Cedar River enters the county near the center on the north, and runs southwest, leaving the county two miles east of the southwest corner.

About two-thirds of the county is between these two rivers. The general drainage, therefore, is south and southwest. Pine Creek, Sweetland Creek, Geneva Creek, Mad Creek, Pappoose Creek, Lowe's Run and several small creeks drain the south and east side of this region into the Mississippi. Sugar Creek and its chief branch, Mud Creek, Musquito, and Little Musquito Creeks with others un-named carry the water from northwest of the divide between the rivers into the Cedar. The third of the county northwest of the Cedar is drained into that stream by the Wapsinonoc.

From the east along the Mississippi to Muscatine the bluff is about one-fourth of a mile from the limit of high water, and rises rather abruptly, generally in steep ridges pointing toward the river, to the average height above high water of about one hundred and fifty feet.

Below Muscatine, the bluff continues nearly west, bending slightly to the south some four miles before it leaves the county, while the river runs almost south of Muscatine, forming a bottom in this county between the river and the bluff, about six square miles. The greater part of this tract is known as Muscatine Island, once correctly so-called because Muscatine Slough branches from the river in the southwestern part of the city, and runs, generally in this county, within a mile of the bluff, and reaches the river again some ten or twelve miles below our southern boundary. This slough is closed now in the city by artificial works.

Some two or three miles back from the bluff of the Mississippi, the surface is moderately rolling. A considerable portion, indeed, of the divide, especially in the northern and eastern part, is quite level. The bluffs along the Cedar are not so high and bold as along the Mississippi.

The bottoms of the Cedar are from two to three miles wide from bluff to bluff. Muscatine Island and a large part of the bottoms along the Cedar ars scarcely above high water. The former is protected by a levee. But little land is covered by ponds, lakes, or swamps.

Muscatine Slough is generally about eighty feet wide and ten feet deep,supplied largely by springs. It expands near the southern border of the county into Keokuk Lake, a sheet of water some two miles long, one-half mile wide, and four to six feet deep. Some low land, along the Cedar , is being reclaimed by a system of ditching.

The whole county, with the exceptions of the river bottoms and Muscatine Island, may be said to be covered with unconsolidated material of uncertain thickness, perhaps from fifty to one hundred feet, called Drift. It consists of clay, sand, gravel, and granitic boulders. The gravel and boulders do not come to the surface anywhere in any considerable quantity, and but a small region is injured by the sand. This is along the east bluff of the Cedar, from the northern border a few miles into the county. The surface of all the higher portions is a rich, black loam. The bottoms are river deposits, and in some instances contain rather too much sand and gravel for the ordinary crops. Muscatine Island has become famous outside of Iowa for its sweet potatoes and watermelons. The light, sandy, and gravelly soil, so near the level of the river, makes it well suited for early vegetables and the products mentioned above.

The bluffs along the Mississippi are generally covered with timber, which extends up the little streams, and the valley of the Cedar is well supplied. Perhaps three-fourths of the county may be regarded as prairie.

Springs are quite common along the bluff, especially on the Mississippi, and good wells are easily made almost anywhere. Muscatine Slough and Keokuk Lake, together with the Mississippi afford an abundance of fish, and the low grounds throughout the county are the resort in fall and spring of innumerable water fowl. Good opportunities offer for pisciculture. The cedar is the chief, if not the only, stream that could afford any considerable water-power. Along this stream, except at Moscow, where there might be a vast power employed, the banks are generally low and insecure, and no good foundation for dams or mills are apparent.

Comparatively little of the native timber is now used for building, or, with the exception of posts, for fencing. Pine, either as logs or timber, is so easily brought from the north that it is cheaper than oak, elm, maple, cottonwood, etc. Brick of good qualities can be made from the clays almost anywhere in the county. A deposit under the city of Muscatine, known as loess, makes the best of beautiful red brick. Wood being abundant, brick are cheap. Limestone is quarried at several points on Pine Creek, about six miles from the Mississippi; near Moscow, on the Cedar, and on Geneva Creek and vicinity; and sandstone on Wyoming Hills, on the Mississippi ,about seven miles east of Muscatine; at Geneva Creek, Muscatine, two miles west of Muscatine along the bluff, and three miles west on Lowe's Run. Rock from all these places make good foundations, and some sandstones have been cut into sills, caps, keys, coping, etc.

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