Great Flood of 1844

The Great Flood of 1844 is the biggest flood ever recorded on the Missouri River and Upper Mississippi River, including Kansas, in terms of discharge. The impact was not as great as subsequent floods because of the small population in the region at the time. The flood was particularly devastating since the region had little or no levees at the time. The markers at the right commemorate the flood levels of the 1844, 1951, and 1993 floods at Westport Landing. The 1844 marker is in the middle.


Congress in 1849 passed the Swamp Act providing land grants to build stronger levees. Among the hardest hit were the Wyandot who lost 100 people in the diseases that occurred after the flood.

The flood also placed a sandbar in front of the Wayne City Landing at Independence, Missouri which had been the jumping off place for the Santa Fe Trail which was to encourage settlers to go further east to Westport Landing in Kansas City.

The flood also is the highest recorded for the Mississippi River at St. Louis (1,300,000 cubic feet second in 1844 vs. 782,000 in 1951 and 1,030,000 in 1993).

Comparison to other big floods
Channeling and levee construction have altered how the floods have hit various areas along the Missouri River. Here's a comparison of the three big floods since the early 1800s.

Great Flood of 1844 - This was the biggest flood of the three in terms of cubic feet/second discharge at Westport Landing in Kansas City. It is estimated that 625,000 cubic feet/second was discharged in the flood. However the crest on July 16, 1844, almost a foot lower than the 1993 flood.

Great Flood of 1951 - The 1951 flood was the second biggest in terms of cubic feet/second discharge at 573,000 cubic feet/second. The 1951 crest on July 14, 1951, was almost two feet lower than the 1844 flood and three feet lower than 1993. However, the flood was the most devastating of all modern floods for Kansas City since its levee system was not built to withstand it. It destroyed the city's stockyards and forced the building of an airport away from the Missouri River bottoms.

Great Flood of 1993 - The 1993 flood was the highest of any of the three but had the lowest discharge (541,000 c.f.s.). While the 1993 flood had devastating impacts elsewhere, Kansas City survived it relatively well because of levees improvements after the 1951 flood.

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