Photos show what Tower Rock, a limestone formation in the middle of the Mississippi River, looks like before and after severe drought dropped water levels

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photo of large limestone rock formation in the middle of a river stitched with a different photo of the same rock in dried up river
Side-by-side shows what Tower Rock looks like when water levels are normal versus when they are low

  • Tower Rock, a limestone formation in the middle of the Mississippi River, is newly accessible by foot. 
  • The destination is now popular with tourists, the Missouri Department of Conservation said. 
  • The Mississippi River is experiencing historic low levels, likely due to climate change.

Tower Rock, a 400-million-year-old limestone formation usually surrounded by the waters of the Mississippi River, is now becoming a popular visitor destination, thanks to the river’s historic low levels.

Located in Perry County, Missouri, Tower Rock is usually only accessible by boat but has now become a haven for tourists who want to walk up and take a closer look. 

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, the rock, which sticks out 60 feet above usual water levels, is only accessible by foot when the water levels are below 1.5 feet at the Mississippi River Chester Gauge, located near a section of the river between Illinois and Missouri.

However, the outcrop may soon become inaccessible once again. Officials at the MDC project a 3.5 feet rise at the Chester gauge as early as this weekend.


“This season’s dry weather created conditions that have attracted numerous visitors to the area over the past few weeks,” MDC Southeast Regional Administrator Matt Bowyer said in a press statement.

Bowyer also warned that visitors should not climb Tower Rock, and observers should remain cautious while walking out on the dry river bed.

“The Mississippi River is still a very dangerous waterbody, even during low conditions,” he said. “Please use caution. And as always, pack out what you pack in. Do not leave litter behind.”

Tower Rock was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1970.

Photo of a 60-ft limestone rock surrounded by water
A view of Tower Rock when water levels are higher

Despite the summer flooding of the Mississippi River, the Midwest is now in a period of abnormal to moderate drought. The region, including the Ohio River and the Upper Mississippi River valleys, has not received enough rain to sustain usual water levels, Insider’s Morgan McFall-Johnsen and Paola Rosa-Aquino reported.

These variable river conditions are consistent with scientists’ predictions of climate change creating more unpredictable weather events.

Tower Rock has become accessible by foot a handful of times over the past decade.

As drought conditions in the Midwest have more typical in recent years, being able to walk to Tower Rock may become more commonplace.

“This is the new normal,” Olivia Dorothy, a director at American Rivers, told local station KSDK. “Climate models have predicted that this region will shift to being prone to very long and dramatic droughts that will be punctuated by extreme fluctuation and flooding.”

The Missouri Department of Conservation did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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