Aug 052014

July 20, 2014: The last Sunday in Colorado, we made a round trip drive along Trail Ridge Road from Estes Park to Grand Lake.

Grand Lake – elevation 8,367 feet; formed by glaciation 30,000 years ago; estimated depth, 265 feet.

Largest natural lake in Colorado and headwaters of the Colorado River

Grand Lake, Colorado: Largest natural lake in Colorado and headwaters of the Colorado River


July 27, 2014: Back home in Missouri, we made a Sunday drive to the Warsaw area and Truman Dam and Reservoir.

Truman Reservoir – elevation 706 feet; formed by the Corps of Engineers in 1979; average depth 22 feet.

Truman Reservoir on the Osage River: purpose - flood control, hydropower, recreation

Truman Reservoir on the Osage River: purpose – flood control, hydropower, recreation

Mountain lakes are commemorated in paintings, promoted on postcards and praised in poems. One could draw the conclusion that in areas of high relief, lakes are more successful. Even artificial lakes built for both flood control and hydropower purposes are more effective in mountainous areas. Blocking prairie streams with relatively gentle relief – like the Osage and South Grand rivers – creates inefficient flood storage and minimal hydropower possibilities. One would think the Corps of Engineers would have realized this. Actually – they probably did, but they were being incentivized by construction companies and encouraged by delusional local advocates and politicians. Today they would never undertake a marginal project like Truman Dam and Reservoir. Lessons have been learned … at least we like to think so!

Jan 222014

643Small cabinet card by Moore

Written on the back:  “No. 7 Warsaw Flood April 24, 1906. Duplicates 15ȼ Moore’s Gallery, Warsaw Mo.”

As this photo shows, the spur railroad from Sedalia to Warsaw unwisely located its station in the floodplain.

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Dec 192013



Real Photo Postcard, mailed 1905

Sent by Lula G. Davis from Lincoln, Missouri to Miss Edith Belle Ordway of Haverhill, Mass., on December 6, 1905 showing “a scene in our county – at Warsaw on the Osage.” This real photo postcard shows the swinging bridge built by Joe Dice across the main Osage. After discussing her upcoming trip to New Mexico in the “Interesting West,” Miss Davis assures Miss Ordway: “. . . . I too am interested in souvenir postals. I do not think it silly to like beautiful things.”


Today the remaining Joe Dice ‘swinger’ on the main Osage, the same bridge in Miss Davis’ real photo postcard, is a pedestrian walkway at Warsaw with historic marker.

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Nov 212012

 Real photo postcard. Penciled on back: “Fairfield Mill in July 1910”

There was a mill and a small manufacturing complex at the hamlet of Fairfield, Missouri on the Pomme de Terre River built, it is said, by Judge George Alexander. He – or rather, his numerous slaves – built a long covered bridge at this spot. Before the Kaysinger Bluff Dam and Reservoir project got underway, the bridge had fallen in, but the stone piers remained. They’re now under the murky waters of Truman Reservoir.

When crossing Truman Reservoir on the Highway 83 bridge, south of Warsaw, look northwest. The town of Fairfield was just up the river from today’s bridge.  .

The history of bridging the Osage River and its tributaries is covered in the new book, DAMMING THE OSAGE by Leland and Crystal Payton, available December 1.

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Feb 242011
Research, for this writer, is almost the best part of a book project. For in our case that often means – road trip!  Many trips to the Ozarks tracking Father Hogan’s horseback reconnaissance for a settlement for Famine immigrants were de rigueur for Mystery of the Irish Wilderness. Last fall, The Osage River book (now in the works) dictated a photo safari to Heritage Days at Truman Dam and Reservoir.

As with most American ‘pioneer/forefathers’ celebrations, Heritage Days in Warsaw, Missouri provides a venue for demonstrations of atavistic skills and arcane crafts with, of course, opportunities to purchase many handmade or locally crafted articles. Heritage Days is no exception. Lining the shady pathways one could find lye soap making, candles, sorghum, wood carving, dying and weaving, and candle making. From the stage of Trailside Theater the sound of old-time music emanated.

The wooded hilltop surrounding the government-moderne, concrete Visitors Center was populated with buckskin- or calico-clad frontiersmen and women; the cleared lawn overlooking the mammoth dam on the Osage hosted Civil War and mountain-man reenactors. They brought displays of long rifles and cannon, tanned hides and bows, powder horns and and Bowie knives.

Irony is an overused concept but it was not lost on me in the firing of a Civil War cannon over the fought-over Corps of Engineers project.  Colorful subject matter and near-perfect October weather called for many snapshots.

“Harry Truman” himself (Dr. Carter Kinkead of the Benton County Historical Society) strolled the grounds, chatting with visitors and giving out bits of history of the eponymous project. Originally named Kaysinger Bluff Dam and Reservoir after the high bluff over the Osage to which the dam is anchored, the name was changed in 1970 to honor Missouri’s own favorite son – and to reinforce its worthiness as a major infrastructure project.  There were questions (and a lawsuit) over its cost/benefit – both economically and environmentally. More – much more – on that in The Osage Riverbook.Congressionally authorized, and Corps of Engineers-built, Truman is an interesting contrast to the first major dam/lake project on the Osage River. Bagnell, a privately funded and operated dam/reservoir was slow to develop, but its shoreline is now crammed with marinas, condo developments and recurrent water-quality concerns.  Shenanigans in its 1920s funding landed one developer in Leavenworth Penitentiary (of course, his major problems had to do with Land Banks, foreclosed Kansas farmland and his effort to make Osage Valley farmland cover the shortfalls).

Truman (a.k.a. Kaysinger Bluff) on the other hand was slow to take off.  Authorized in 1954, construction didn’t begin until 1964. Funding was frequently slowed by the costs of the Vietnam War.  When Congress passed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in 1968, the door was opened to challenge the project for the inadequacy of its environmental impact statement. NEPA went into effect in 1969; early in 1972 the lawsuit was filed. Interestingly enough …. there seems to be no mention of that lawsuit in official public accounts of the project’s history.

But I digress.You’ll just have to read the book!
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