When the Mississippi Ran Backward
February 7, 1812 - It was on this day that a powerful earthquake rattled New Madrid, Missouri. The ground shook, cracked and heaved so intensely that it temporarily reversed the course of the Mississippi river.
The quake was one in a series of massive shakers that devastated the region between December 1811 and March of 1812. But the one that struck on February 7th is estimated as high as 8.8 in magnitude.
With an earthly upheaval such as this, all kinds of crazy things happened. The Mississippi River sloshed backwards and created a lake that's still there. Giant cracks opened up and some unlucky souls fell in, never to be seen again. The scale of the disaster is hard to imagine, but damage was reported as faraway as Charleston, South Carolina.
A definitive death toll is unknown, but most of the fatalities probably happened on the water as countless riverboats capsized and sank in the tumultuous currents. There were also many deaths among the Native American villages in the region. Many of these completely vanished as riverbanks collapsed and flash floods swept through the region.