Ain’t No River Wide Enough


SCA member Angel Bai writes from Big Muddy

Growing up in LA County, the Los Angeles River was rarely more than a dry concrete channel. The current drought is among the most severe California has ever experienced, forcing residents to drastically cut water usage. You hear about distant lands with earth so dry it becomes hard and cracked, and to think the same could happen to your beloved home state is heartbreaking!

This is the entry road for the Overton Bottoms North Unit of the Big Muddy Refuge. My supervisor and I waded down this road, and at some points the water reached my hips!

This summer, I am an intern at the Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge in Columbia, Missouri. Being accustomed to arid conditions, experiencing consecutive weeks of rain here in Columbia was certainly a shock! Day after day, water pounded down from the sky, seeming to have some vendetta against the earth itself. Relentlessly, the skies poured their clouds upon the world below, allowing us only brief periods of relief when the sun would peek through, reminding us of its existence. The rain, however, always comes back.

Although it may frighten and annoy at times, the rain can also be quite delightful! The fresh fragrance in the air right after the precipitation subsides, the gentle caress of the warm sun on your skin after you’ve almost forgotten about it – even the sound of raindrops pattering on your windows while you drift to sleep! – are all silver linings.

Would you believe that this is a hiking trail? The other interns and I paddled the flooded Little Muddy trail, bumping into floating logs and low hanging tree branches on the way.

While the rain lulls me with its steady rhythm, it awakens the mighty Missouri River. The river rises and, in the event of a severe flood, fills up past its banks, over its levees, and smothers the crops of corn and soybeans that hide behind the levees. The recent rising water levels are nowhere as extreme as the Great Flood of 1993, but they are a reminder of how nature will not be contained.

This flooding both scares and awes me. As a woman and a minority, there are not too many others like me in the Fish and Wildlife Service. Like a flooded river, I must push against my levees to prove myself as valuable an employee as those who are part of the majority.

Bees caught by net are kept in vials of soapy water. The soap breaks the surface tension of the water so the bees sink in instead of floating on the water’s surface. The bees are rinsed off, dried, and then pinned and sorted to be sent off for identification.

The bees are rinsed off, dried, and then pinned and sorted to be sent off for identification.


One way I do so is by taking on tasks that pose a challenge to me and are outside my comfort zone. In the past month of this internship, I have surveyed native bees, helped spray invasive plants, dug a trench for a fence, and paddled a flooded hiking trail. All of these experiences have taught me that I am capable of more than I imagined – and that just as the Missouri may surmount its levees, I can overcome any barriers that are in my way. As I progress in my internship, I hope to continue to keep pushing forward, just as the Missouri does.

Student Conservation Association