Mississippi River Basin Model
In the pre-computer 1940s, when engineers needed to model a complex system, they would build an amazingly elaborate scale model.
The Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency in charge of developing and maintaining the nation's water resources, built many such models, but none were on the scale of the Mississippi River Basin Model. Made in response to a series of catastrophic river floods, it simulated the effects of weather and flooding on the more than 15,000 miles of waterways that make up the Mississippi River Basin. It was created at a scale of 1:100 vertical and 1:2,000 horizontal and covered over 200 acres of Buddy Butts Park.
Work on the model began in 1943 by Italian and German prisoners of war, who had been shipped over from North Africa. Though projected to be completed by 1948, the model took much longer than expected to build. It wasn't truly finished until 1966, a full 23 years after it was started. Six years later, it was flooded for the last time.
By the early 1970s, the push toward computer modeling had begun, and by the 1980s, the model had become a burden for the Army Corps. In 1990, the site was transferred to the city of Jackson but was too expensive for it to maintain, so the city simply abandoned it.
The river basin now sits surrounded and hidden by overgrown woods in Buddy Butts Park. It is open to the public to visit, but the tiny concrete banks of the rivers are now overgrown with comparatively giant foliage.