New Madrid Earthquake: A River Runs Backward


No audio: How can a river run backwards? This animation shows how a river can be forced backwards, albeit only long enough to find a new route. Several written accounts from the New Madrid earthquake of 1811 and 1812 describe the horror as great waters swashed upriver causing lakes to form on previously dry land.

This is from eyewitness accounts of the 1811 New Madrid earthquake.


  • Rivers run downhill
  • During thrustfaulting in 1811, the land was forced up
  • The river was truncated
  • Uplifted land forced the water to obey the law of gravity and head up river

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