Where’d all the mud come from?
Much of the mud in Muscooten Bay, and the LaGrange Pool, was once freshly plowed up from the farm fields of Central Illinois. That farm runoff silt began pouring into the Illinois River with the straightening of the Sangamon River in northern Cass County in 1904.
In 1949, the US Army Corps of Engineers relocated the mouth of the Sangamon River from river mile 98 to 89 on the Illinois River. This reduction of sediment delivered to the Illinois River meant conserving commercial channel maintenance funds.
Over time, Muscooten Bay filled with sediment severely inhibiting its recreational use and ecological quality. As late as the mid-1990s watercraft could navigate through its backwater channels from Beardstown to Bath. Muscooten Bay was once known nationally for its fishing and duck hunting. It’s fondly remembered for its water skiing fun.
In the last 20 years, Muscooten Bay has filled and its sediment has started to again flow into the main channel of the Illinois River, impacting commercial navigation as well as channel and port maintenance. As dredging costs have increased and become a larger part of the USACE (MVR) channel maintenance budget, and beyond the budget of most small river ports, alternative methods to address sediment management in the watershed are needed.