The Cairo is the sole survivor of the fleet of river gunboats built by the Union during the Civil War with the object of controlling the lower Mississippi River. Designed by Samuel Pook and built by James B. Eads, it saw limited battle and was sunk on the Yazoo River in 1862 by newly developed electronically detonated mines, becoming the first craft ever sunk by this predecessor to torpedo technology. The 175-foot ironclad vessel had 13 guns.
Clarifying the turbid waters of the Mississippi River for use as drinking water was a formidable challenge. The Chain of Rocks Water Purification Plant provided the first application of a system of flocculation, sedimentation, and rapid sand filtration for water purification.
The system played a major role in reducing the impact of St. Louis' typhoid and cholera epidemic of 1903 that claimed 287 lives. Continued improvements to the plant reduced that number to 91 by 1914. It is estimated that 1,900 lives were likely saved between 1903 and 1915 due to the filtration system.
Spearheaded by Hugh Cooper, the Keokuk Dam & Power Plant served as a prototype for many future power plants. The project harnessed the hydropower of the Mississippi River, between Keokuk, Iowa and Hamilton, Illinois.
The crest of the dam is nearly a mile long. The dam structure features 119 arch spans between six-foot-thick piers and a 110-foot-wide pneumatic lock. Combined with the lock, the dam reduced travel time for steamboats by nearly two hours.