During the 1997 flood, residents north of Moorhead referred to it as the "Oakport Township Slough." Yet this quiet, wooded depression is a remarkable feature, puzzling in its exact origins, . . . but a feature that is certainly not unique to the Red River Valley. Why would the Red River have abandoned, perhaps suddenly, a well-established, 15-mile length of existing channel in favor of the carving a new one?

From what is now Edgewood Golf Course in north Fargo, the Red River at one time flowed north-northwest towards the region of Argusville. The channel ("slough") that it formerly occupied is clearly visible from both the ground and air as a wooded depression following a dizzingly-meandering path across the landscape. During times of flood, water still passes into this depression, but it essentially no longer operates as a river. The old channel is still fresh in appearance, and the immaturity of soils developed within it indicates that it was abandoned by the Red relatively recently - perhaps only a few hundred years ago.

Today at Edgewood Golf Course in Fargo, the Red River makes a sharp bend southwestward past Trollwood Park and then turns almost due northward near North Broadway. This new channel of the Red River has few meanders, indicating its relative youthfulness and immaturity.

Other stretches of abandoned channels exist on both the Red River and its tributaries. Each may have its own origin: channel blockage by landslides, ice jams, gradient adjustments due to isostatic adjustments, etc. It may even be possible that one or more of these features are a consequence of some past moderate seismic activity amplified across the weak sediments underlying the Lake Agassiz plain.

Arguably, Oakport Township, albeit a restful, rural setting immediately adjacent to a city, should have remained undeveloped. The expenses of remediating this misuse of low, floodable lands are enormous.

But, unarguably, both the beauty and the susceptibility to flooding of Oakport Township are consequences of a river once having run through it.

To view this abandoned channel of the Red River (during drier times), take North Broadway north across the Red River bridge. Turn right (east) at the stop sign. Proceed eastward on Clay Co. Hwy 22 about a mile. Over the next 0.3 miles, the road cuts across the abandoned channel at several points.

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This web site represents the views of the author and not necessarily those of North Dakota State University. NDSU is not responsible or liable for its contents. Copyright © Donald P. Schwert.