IS THE BLUFF SAFE?
“Let us not ignore the warnings of the past. Construction along the bluff will eventually wind up under the hill.”
John P. Bornman, Jr. Geologist
Report to Mayor Phillip West and Natchez Board of Aldermen
“Geology of the Natchez Bluffs”
February 2, 2006
These major losses of bluff have often occurred in conjunction with periods of very heavy rainfall. Often a crack has allowed water to penetrate deep into the bluff. The absorption of excessive water into the soil causes it to become so heavy that it cannot withstand gravitational forces.
1. 1939 Jones Sawmill: Loss of bluff 100 feet deep by 200 feet long which killed one person and created major damage to the sawmill.
2. Circa 1940’s Cemetery Road: A large part of the road in the Jewish Hill area, but outside of the Natchez Cemetery, slumped off. On the west side of Cemetery Road approximately 50 feet of bluff has been lost, causing the road to be relocated to the east.
3. Circa 1950’s The Briars: Three railroad employees killed in slump that engulfed the railroad below along the toe of the bluff.
4. 1951 Clifton Avenue: Large sections of the street have collapsed. Fifteen historic homes endangered within feet of the edge of the cliff where there was once 50’ of frontage. Additional areas of the street continue to be lost to the south. Crack 12” to 18” wide found in 1946 at the intersection of Oak Street with Clifton was first indication of a problem.
5. Circa 1960’s Railroad Depot: Area immediately south of Natchez Pecan Shelling Company. Loss of 18 railroad switch tracks, 2 cattle chutes, and 2 cattle pens northwest of the former Railroad Depot building, which no longer exists. Major concave area visible on all photographs.
6. Circa 1970’s The Cliffs Plantation: Loss of bluff 150 feet wide by one-half mile long. This area is far removed from man-made structures and is indicative of the delicate nature of the loess bluff.
7. 1978 Weymouth Hall: Several major slumps over the years with the loss of over 90 feet from the bluff edge. Continuing losses have occurred. By 1949, this antebellum home listed on the National Register of Historic Places is only 7 feet from the edge of the bluff.
8. 1980 Silver Street. Two people killed. Two historic buildings destroyed. As much as 60 feet of bluff loss has occurred in the Silver Street area, mostly since 1941. The Mississippi River was shortened with the Giles Cut in 1935, with the current diverted towards Silver Street and Natchez Under-the-Hill.