The hidden river

Hoeferlin on watersheds, climate change and how the river shapes St. Louis

The Mississippi River defines St. Louis, shaping its life and culture.

But today, for many St. Louisans, that connection has been broken, said Derek Hoeferlin, chair of landscape architecture in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis.

In this video, Hoeferlin, who was born and raised in St. Louis, describes how a highly managed system of locks and dams has transformed the river over the last century — and how that transformation affects local perceptions as well as potential responses to climate change. He also introduces viewers to a rare 10-mile stretch, just north of downtown, that remains almost eerily free of commercial traffic.

“You hear things like trains or planes flying over you,” said Hoeferlin, author of “Way Beyond Bigness: The Need for Watershed Architecture” (2023). “But other than that, it’s just you, the canoes and the wildlife.”

See also: For Sam Fox student perspectives on the Mississippi and Hoeferlin’s work, see this YouTube Short.