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About the SeriesA Tale of Two Rivers


 A Tale of Two Rivers

Program One: 'A Tale of Two Rivers'

Engineering and Politics on the Mississippi and the Colorado

In the years 1927 to 1929, the role of the federal government in building public works was transformed. No longer would the government sit idly by as great floods killed hundreds and made hundreds of thousands homeless; no longer would a vast wilderness remain barren for lack of the most basic resource—water. Piecemeal private and local efforts had proved insufficient in preventing suffering or promoting development.

These years were the turning point on both the Mississippi and Colorado Rivers. The battle took place in Mississippi and Louisiana, California, Nevada and Arizona, and especially in Washington, D.C.

"A Tale of Two Rivers" shows how America harnessed two of its mightiest rivers and put them to work for its citizens. The projects—the Mississippi's system of levees and floodways and the Colorado's Hoover Dam—constitute vastly different engineering efforts. Their tale is epic, at first one of folly and failure, then of unprecedented personal drama and human achievement.

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Photo Credit: Old Court House Museum Collection, Vicksburg, Miss.