I got a bit ahead of myself. Not all of my readers (in fact, probably very few) know much about St. Louis at all, and especially not the scattered sites I speak of, such as the topic of this post: River des Peres.

First, St. Louis. St. Louis is the center of a 16-county Metropolitan Area.

The overly large St. Louis Metropolitan Region. The darker shade of blue is Missouri counties; the lighter Illinois. It is a region of extreme fragmentation and governmental overlap.

The overly large St. Louis Metropolitan Region. The darker shade of blue is Missouri counties; the lighter Illinois. It is a region of extreme fragmentation and governmental overlap. The Mississippi River divides Missouri from Illinois.

St. Louis is in the extreme eastern portion of Missouri, in an ecological zone known as the Interior River Valley and Hills–prime agricultural soil, in other words. Click here for a map of Missouri and Iowa’s ecoregions.

The city was surveyed and founded in 1764 by New Orleanian Pierre Laclede (and his young companion, Auguste Chouteau). It was laid out in a strikingly similar fashion as its parent city–as a couple of neat, square blocks on a relative bluff along the Mississippi River.

Let’s take a look at a map of the City. First, I suppose, I should say that, in furtherance to my previous post, St. Louis is a very rare example of municipal governance. In 1876, St. Louis voters narrowly approved a measure that allowed the City of St. Louis to break from its parent county (Parish to Louisianans), named St. Louis County. Prior to 1876, St. Louis was the county seat of St. Louis County. After the “Great Divorce” as it became known (a squabble over taxation procedures by the State of Missouri inspired the action in the first place), the City was classified as an “Independent City”, in no county at all. Only Baltimore, whose split occured prior to St. Louis’s, is as major and notable a case of this extremely rare phenomenon.

So when I say “the City” and “the County”, you know that I mean two very distinct entities. The fragmentation between these two bodies has caused severe problems. Back in 1876, St. Louis thought it would never expand beyond its self-delimited boundaries. Many citizens laughed that the city was so bold as to claim an extra 30-something square miles of hinterlands when the Divorce happened. But right after the decision, the streetcar arrived on the St. Louis scene and carried thousands of St. Louisans farther west, south, and north. By 1920, the city had already filled out to nearly all of its edges. Early suburbs captured most of the growth from then on out–that is, until the new wave of suburbs leapfrogged them.

The result is a metropolitan environment a bit different from New Orleans, whose later-growth suburbs were actually absorbed into the city (think Lakeview, Gentilly, New Orleans East, etc.). But to be a bit more germane to this post, city fathers placed that 1876 boundary just beyond River des Peres on the southwest side of the city. I guess they imagined that the brook would be of use to the growing city early on.

Now let’s take a look at a couple maps of the city.

This is an aerial of the City. The most dominant portion of the image is the neat course of the Mississippi River, which, although blue-looking on the map, is never that hue when viewed from the ground. The bands of gray along the river represent areas of visible and heavy industrial presence. That is the sad state of todays riverfront. Industry has claimed most of the space on the South Side, limiting (legal) access to views of the river to a scant few points. Luckily, a bike trail runs along the industrial corridor to the north. It provides expansion views of a scarred industrial landscape as well as the might river that helped father the City of St. Louis.

This is an aerial of the City. The most dominant portion of the image is the neat course of the Mississippi River, which, although blue-looking on the map, is never that hue when viewed from the ground. The bands of gray along the river represent areas of visible and heavy industrial presence. That is the sad state of today's riverfront. Industry has claimed most of the space on the South Side, limiting (legal) access to views of the river to a scant few points. Luckily, a bike trail runs along the industrial corridor to the north. It provides expansive views of a scarred industrial landscape as well as the mighty river that helped father the City of St. Louis.

Now it’s time for the political map:

The deep orange is St. Louis City; the other colors are incorporated municipalities (suburbs) outside the city limits. The city is 61 square miles, almost the exact same size as Washington D.C. However, this makes it a very smaller city when comparing its size to other nearby urban centers, such as Chicago (227 square miles) and Kansas City (318). That means that, even with a severely diminished population (about 856,000 in 1950, down to about 356,000 as of 2007), the city is still somewhat dense.

The deep orange is St. Louis City; the other colors are incorporated municipalities (suburbs) outside the city limits. The city is 61 square miles, almost the exact same size as Washington D.C. However, this makes it a very small city when comparing its size to other nearby urban centers, such as Chicago (227 square miles) and Kansas City (318). That means that, even with a severely diminished population (about 856,000 in 1950, down to about 356,000 as of 2007), the city is still somewhat dense.

And a map of neighborhoods: [Click the underlined link to visit the larger image.]
There are 79 official neighborhoods in the City of St. Louis. Some are quite large and have up to 18,000 residents; others are tiny and have less than 1,000. The River des Peres begins at the extreme bottom (south) of this picture, in a neighborhood known as the Patch. I say it begins here only because its easier to trace from its confluence with the Mississippi than the reverse; this is actually the end of the river. Anyhow, the river divides the Boulevard Heights, St. Louis Hills, and Lindenwood Park neighborhoods into an eastern section and a western sliver. It then continues northward to Ellendale, which it practically bisects, before dumping into the Italian neighborhood known as the Hill. From there on, it runs underground and into the large green rectangle on the map--Forest Park--before heading into the St. Louis suburb of University City.

There are 79 "official" neighborhoods in the City of St. Louis. Some are quite large and have up to 18,000 residents; others are tiny and have less than 1,000. The River des Peres begins at the extreme bottom (south) of this picture, in a neighborhood known as the Patch. I say it "begins" here only because it's easier to trace from its confluence with the Mississippi than the reverse; this is actually the "end" of the river. Anyhow, the river divides the Boulevard Heights, St. Louis Hills, and Lindenwood Park neighborhoods into an eastern section and a western sliver. It then continues northward to Ellendale, which it practically bisects, before dumping into the Italian neighborhood known as the Hill. From there on, it runs underground and into the large green rectangle on the map--Forest Park--before heading into the St. Louis suburb of University City.

Also, if we can, a more zoomed in section that will show only the neighborhoods adjacent to the River des Peres. Below, the River snakes through south St. Louis. The bottom right is the river’s confluence with the Mississippi in extreme south St. Louis:
I hope this post has helped to give a slightly better picture of where River des Peres is. If not, click here and check out this Google Map for yourself.
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