Exploring the Banks of the Red River

NDSU Students take a bike ride to learn about their home

The Red River in all its glory provides water to a lot of us across the region.

But how has the river changed throughout the years?

What starts off as a normal summer class has turned into an unorthodox classroom studying the nooks and crannies of what we call the Red.

NDSU Geology students rode along the banks to enhance their studies with our region’s key water source.

“Basically we started our class trip and went around and talked about the different kinds of sediment that have formed around the Fargo–Moorhead area and the different clays and silts that used to make up what was Lake Aggasiz,” said NDSU Senior Amy Mueller.

Lake Aggasiz was an enormous glacial lake across North America and drained only 9500 years ago to help form the Red.

“What’s interesting about the Red River in general is that it is a fairly young river, but it has the channel pattern of a very old river,” explained NDSU Geology Professor Dr. Ken Lepper.

An old river that meanders and flows over the flat surface that we call the Red River Valley.

“It forms a very curving or what we call a meandering pattern, because the slopes are so low,” said Lepper.

Another feature of the river is that the silty, clay–like soil along the riverbend has different characteristics depending on the different kind of weather going on.

“Because it’s unstable actually, our soil when it’s dry is extremely compact and sturdy but when it’s wet, it’s really soft.  And that’s really important with our flooding here,” explained NDSU Senior Ingrid Altenburg.

However, the most important aspect of the hands–on experience is to learn how to apply it to a future career here in the F–M metro. Amy Mueller wants to go into architecture.

“We would need to have an understanding of the clays and silts formed in the area and how deep we’re able to build and that’s actually important to know because people from outside the area don’t understand that.”

And that inside knowledge of the river shows that studying for the future is not just a bike ride in the park.

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