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Each week on the Junior Curators blog, we travel back in time to a different place in Tennessee history. Stories may be about a famous person, place or event from Tennessee’s past. They will include things like priceless artifacts, pictures, videos, and even some games. Be sure to better understand the story by answering the questions at the end of each post.
After learning the story, be sure to share what you've learned with your parents, family, or friends. Try making your own exhibit about it, shooting a movie, or writing a story about it. Let your creativity run wild!
by Emilee Dehmer
West Tennessee: Mud Island, Memphis
There are so many cool and exciting places in Tennessee. So many, that you might not know about them all. That’s what Go See Tennessee is all about. We’re here to tell you about places we think are neat and that you might want to visit too. It might be helpful to make a “Go and See” List, and wheneveryou read about a place that sounds cool, write it down, to help you remember it for the future. Ready for this week’s place? Let’s go!
Mud. Lots of it. Okay, well you won’t actually find much mud here anymore. Even though it’s named “Mud Island,” today the peninsula alongside downtown Memphis is not the muddy, marsh it used to be. It’s a fun park with so much to do and explore, which is why it’s next up on our “go and see” list.
Let's Go See Mud Island River Park (memphistravel.com)-Allen Gillespie
The first step on your visit to Mud Island is getting there. Mud Island is a peninsula in the Mississippi River. A peninsula is like an island, except instead of having water on all sides, one piece of the land is still connected to the mainland. So while you can drive to Mud Island, you might try one of these other options. One option is that you can walk the Skybridge. It’s only half a mile long and you walk over the river. It will give you great views of the river! If you’d rather go through the river rather than over it, you can also rent kayaks or paddleboards to get there too!
Once you arrive at Mud Island, you can swing on the yellow tire swing, have a picnic, or take your dog for a walk (just make sure they are on a leash!). You can snap some photos by the 50-foot tall sculpture that says “Memphis.” There’s a music amphitheater where you can watch concerts. You can also visit the Mississippi River Museum. It has 18 galleries which covers 10,000 years of history. You can even see a few life-size replica boats in there!
Let's Go See Mud Island River Park (memphistravel.com),Alex Shansky, Be sure to snap some selfies in front of the 50 ft Memphis Sculpture.
If all that isn’t enough, you can walk down nearly 1,000 miles of the Mississippi River at Mud Island. One of the main features of the park is the scale replica of the lower Mississippi River, starting at Cairo, Illinois and ending just south of New Orleans, Louisiana. One 30-inch stride equals one mile of the actual river. If you follow the whole river, you’ll walk for five city blocks, pass through six states, and walk along 954 miles of the river. At the end of the river, it empties into a million-gallon pool that represents the Gulf of Mexico. While all of these fun activities are at the park now, that hasn’t always been the case.
Memphis's Mud Island: The Complete Guide (tripsavvy.com): Taylor McIntyre: A portion of the Mississippi River replica you can walk along.
So, what was Mud Island before it was a park? It was actually an airport! On October 3, 1959 the Memphis Downtown Airport was opened. It was said to be the first airport in the nation so close to a downtown. It was a popular airport for tourists because of its distance to downtown. The airport didn’t last long though. By the 1960’s talks to build a bridge at the end of the island would interfere with the runway. It was closed on August 13, 1970 and a few years later the Hernando de Soto bridge was built.
You can see the airport on Mud Island in the front of this picture.
Any day of the week is a good day to visit Mud Island, especially Mudday’s. There are so many activities and things to learn at Mud Island that you’ll never get bored! But if you do, remember you’re on the river- the original streaming service!
Check out this YouTube Channel for a drone shot of Mud Island: Mud Island Drone - YouTube
Emilee Dehmer is an Educator at the Tennessee State Museum.