Engineers preserve shared history with Miss. River

Published 10:17 am Thursday, June 2, 2016

It was during the American Revolution that George Washington appointed the first engineer officer to the Army June 16, 1775. Now, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is made up of more than 37,000 civilian and military personnel working together in public works, most commonly known for dams, canals and flood protections.

USACE Vicksburg District also sustains the Jesse Brent Lower Mississippi River Valley Museum in historic downtown Vicksburg.

“The (museum) provides visitors with a unique look at life surrounding the mighty Mississippi River,” according to the museum’s welcome. “Through both interactive and static displays, visitors can explore the river’s past, examine the science behind water movement and even learn about the future plans for the Mississippi Valley.”

Crowd favorites at the educational center include a 1,515-gallon aquarium with native and invasive fish species, an outdoor scale model of a section of the Mississippi River and the decommissioned Motor Vessel Mississippi IV, which the USACE used as a towboat and inspection vessel.

Park Ranger Kathy Mabry said it’s an honor for her to be a part of the USACE and to help tell the story of the history between the Mississippi River and USACE.

“It tells the story of our country and our founding fathers,” she said. “It’s so much fun to share that story and so much more how we have expanded our responsibilities under the authority of the U.S. Congress.”

Mabry said that history includes the Mississippi River Commission (est. 1879), which was given the responsibility of keeping the channel open and managing flood control. The Mississippi River now has almost 4,000 miles of levees.

“At the museum we tell the story of the past, the present and the future of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” she said. “Since I am a park ranger, and I have served as a park ranger for years, one of the primary things we do here too is promote water safety.”

Mabry said anyone in Vicksburg who has not yet been to the Jesse Brent Lower Mississippi River Valley Museum should make the trip downtown to check it out.

“Come have fun,” she said. “The Mississippi River Commission’s decommissioned Motor Vessel Mississippi IV is the Mississippi’s major attraction.”

During rain, the motor vessel is closed to the public, Mabry added.

She said the museum wouldn’t be possible without the support of Vicksburg District Commander Col. John Cross, Engineer Research and Development Center Commander Col. Bryan Green, Mississippi River Commission President and Mississippi Valley Division Commander General Michael Wehr and the many visitors and volunteers.

���It’s a blessing that every day this museum can stay open,” she said. “If it weren’t for these volunteers, we wouldn’t. We have more than 30 volunteers who staff the museum on a daily basis from all walks of life.”

The museum is open Wednesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and admission is free. For more information, call 601-638-9900 or visit the museum at 910 Washington St.

Editor’s Note: This is the second in an ongoing series highlighting museums in Vicksburg.