The Oklahoma River at Regatta Park - photo from www.dougdawg.blogspot.com
Apparently I’m being taken to task for writing last week that the Oklahoma River (then known as the North Canadian River) was an embarrassment to city residents before improvements were made as part of the original MAPS program.
Mark Christian writes:
Embarrassment? Really? The river, with its broad flood plain and seasonal water flow, is precisely what’s native to this environment.
Interesting argument. And indeed, going back a century ago, Mark’s description of the river would have been on target. Indeed, the river was a source of pride in the city’s early years and its shore was lined with parks including Delmar Gardens, the city’s zoo and baseball park.
An early day photo of a North Canadian River crossing south of downtown.
Except the river south of downtown was anything but a broad flood plain with seasonal water flow, nor was it in its native state in the years following World War II through the 1990s. A Corps of Engineers flood-control project in the 1950s ensured against that. The Corps straightened the river, lined it with rocks, and designed it to drain as quickly as possible.
To those with short or faded memories, this is what the North Canadian River looked like 20 years ago:
Mark Klett (American, b. 1952) Canadian River near Wiley Post Park, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, July 1991 Gelatin silver print, image/sheet: 16 x 20 in. (40.64 x 50.8 cm) Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Purchase, 1991.065 © Mark Klett
The river, prior to MAPS, was frequently referred to as an embarrassment and a ditch. I’m sticking to my story.
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