Historic and Recent Land Use
The presettlement Grand River Basin was characterized by long narrow prairies generally oriented north-south and divided by timbered ridge tops and stream valleys (Schroeder 1982). Only in the southwest part of the basin did prairies open up to wide expanses averaging one or two miles across.
Schroeder (1982) describes the riparian areas common to the basin.
"In addition to the upland prairies, bottomland prairies occurred regularly on the flood plains of streams, sometimes becoming so extensive that timber was restricted to the river bank and rougher valley slopes.
Large areas of the broad flood plains of streams in the Grand-Chariton region supported a `luxuriant growth of coarse wild grass' (Watkins et al. 1921). Sometimes these wet prairies occupied the entire bottomland, except for a timber strip fringing the banks of streams. Clay or gumbo soils prevented good drainage, and marshes and ponds abounded.
Survey notes reveal a complex pattern of small lakes or ponds, wet prairie, intensively meandering creeks with and without river bank timber, and dense timber only along the Grand River channel in northwest Chariton County in what is now the Swan Lake area. There was nothing but wet prairie at the present Swan Lake site."
The first European settlers came to the Grand River region in 1817. However, extensive settlement did not begin until after 1830 (Boehner 1937). Much of the agricultural activity was related to clearing trees for firewood and row crop production. Prairie areas, especially those near streams were not farmed because primitive implements could not plow the tough soil. Early settlers also believed that land that did not grow trees could not grow crops (Boehner 1937). Grazing and timber clearing probably had the most impact on streams during this time.
In 1835, the Missouri State Legislature declared Grand River to be navigable to the Iowa state line, but steamboat navigation was never possible much above Chillicothe (Boehner 1937). There are accounts of steamboats making trips up the Grand River as far as the vicinity of Utica and Breckenridge (Livingston County) in the period of 1842-1865 (Boehner 1937). The steamer trips up the Grand River often experienced long delays due to low water conditions and navigation hazards. The town of Bedford in Livingston County derived its name from a steamer of that name that struck a log and was wrecked beyond repair during low water on the Grand River 12 miles southeast of Chillicothe (Boehner 1937). In the 1848-49 session, the General Assembly appropriated $200,000 to improve Grand River for navigation (Birdsell and Dean 1882). Much of that activity was probably snag removal. By 1886, the use of channelization, jetties, and rip-rap was being considered to facilitate navigation and improve the floodplain for farming (St. Louis National Historical Co. 1886).
In the late 1800's and early 1900's limited channelization was done using pilot channels (USCOE 1963). Around 1915, channelization became a common practice (Wells 1948). Drainage districts were formed to cooperate on stream channelization projects. Much of the early channelization was done in the upper reaches of the Grand River. In Grundy County, channels were dug in all of the major rivers and streams by the 1920's (USDA-SCS 1990). No organized maintenance has been done since the early 1950's (USDA-SCS 1990). The rapid accumulation of sediment in the lower Grand River decreased the channel capacity. Channelization projects were then undertaken in the lower portion of the basin to solve the resulting floods (Wells 1948).
The 1970's and 1980's are considered the private levee construction periods (USDA-SCS 1982). Rising land prices and the increased availability of heavy equipment made levees an attractive alternative along streams even without federal cost share assistance. Today channelization and levee construction are viewed by landowners as legitimate stream management practices throughout the basin. Since 1915, approximately 50 drainage districts and 10 privately-financed organizations have spent more than $10,000,000 on channel straightening, drainage facilities, and levees to protect 385,000 acres of land. However, the construction of the various projects was not coordinated and they provide differing levels of protection (USCOE 1989).
The basin has been described as a "typical Midwestern rural area with scattered small towns and a low population density" (USDA-SCS 1982). There are no major urban areas within the basin. Chillicothe (pop. 9,000), Trenton (pop. 6,129), Brookfield (pop. 4,888), Cameron (pop. 4,831), Carrollton (pop. 4,406), Bethany (pop. 3,005), Lamoni, Iowa (pop. 2,705), and Greenfield, Iowa (pop. 2,074) are the major towns within the Grand River Basin.
Land use in the Missouri portion of the Grand River Basin is estimated to be 92% agricultural and 5% forest (Table Lu01) (Figure Lu01, Lu02, and Lu03 for the Lower Grand, Middle Grand, and Upper Grand sub-basins respectively).
Soil Conservation Projects
Missouri has approximately 1.3 million acres (26%) of the basin within Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act (Public Law 83-566) watershed projects (USDA-SCS 1993). The Panther Creek Watershed project in Harrison County, is the first completed PL-566 project. Ten other projects within the basin are in various stages of planning and construction (Table Lu02).
Special Area Land Treatment (SALT) projects have been initiated in the watersheds of 37 streams and lakes within the basin (Table Lu03). SALT projects are state-funded programs administered by local Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) to reduce soil erosion. Approximately 360,430 acres are enrolled in SALT projects throughout the Missouri portion of the basin. When all projects are completed, 4% of Missouri's portion of the basin will be treated.
There are 72,342 acres of public land within the Grand River Basin (Figure Lu04). A total of 54,281 acres are in Missouri with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) managing approximately 56% of that land. In Iowa, 18,061 acres of the basin are in public ownership.
Management of MDC lands ranges from an intensively managed wetland area to moderately managed upland and natural areas. Opportunities for both consumptive and non-consumptive recreational activities are available on public land within the basin.
There are 22 stream access sites within the Missouri portion of the basin (Figure Lu05). Seven additional sites will complete MDC's stream access acquisition plan objectives (McPherson 1994). Twelve access sites on the mainstem of Grand River provide opportunities for float trips. Portions of Thompson River, Grindstone Creek, Big Creek (Harrison and Daviess counties), Grand River and Locust Creek have been highlighted as good stream reaches for floating (Pemberton 1982).
There are 27 public fishing lakes that exist or are in the planning phase (20 in Missouri, 16 in Iowa; Figure Lu06). Construction of a public fishing lake near Braymer, Missouri would complete MDC's public lake acquisition goal of providing close to home fishing opportunities to Missouri residents within the basin (Ryck 1991)
Corps of Engineers 404 Jurisdiction
The Missouri portion of the Grand River Basin is under the jurisdiction of the Kansas City District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Iowa portion is administered by the Rock Island District. Applications for 404 permits should be addressed to one of the following offices:
700 Federal Building
Kansas City, MO 64106-2896
Clock Tower Building