Legacy of the Nile Floods

To the Nile floods of Pharaoh times modern civilisation owes the beginning of engineering, surveying, mathematics and other sciences, developed by the Egyptians in order to find their lands again after the floods had obliterated all landmarks. Farther east the Babylonians learned to control the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers by means of canals and ditches. Still farther east and at about the same time-some four thousand years before Christ-a Chinese engineer was elevated to the emperor's throne because he was able to control a flood and save the land from the sea. In the United States, which now leads the world in engineering and flood-control projects, rampant rivers early made their appearance in history.

In 1541 Hernando de Soto, discoverer of the Mississippi, experienced flood times on the river, and the historian who accompanied his expedition wrote the first description of a Mississippi River flood. That sixteenth century flood began in March and reached its peak days later, with inundated areas extending for twenty leagues on each side of the river. During the Revolutionary War, George Rogers was adopted extending national assistance unprecedented in the history of the country's flood control work. Since 1928 about 725 million cubic yards of earth have been placed in the levees, a total that represents more than twice the amount of earth moved in building the Panama Canal. The levees have an aggregate length of 2,000 miles, and are the most extensive structures built by man in the history of our race.

Because of the importance of rivers and harbours to the nation's military safety, these have always been under the control of the War Department. Thus, to the Army Engineers has gone the problem of flood control on the nation's great river systems. In addition to building some forty-five flood control dams, plus more than a hundred local protection projects, the Engineer Corps has used the lower Mississippi valley as a full-scale laboratory in which to test and apply practical flood control methods.