PORTAGE DES SIOUX, MISSOURI
Back in 1951, the Mississippi River rose so high that it threatened to destroy Portage des Sioux, a tiny town west of St. Louis near St. Charles. The community prayed to Mary and gave her the title "Our Lady of the Rivers." Before overtaking the village, the waters receded, and Portage des Sioux was saved. In gratitude for the timely miracle, the townspeople decided to erect a shrine.
Madonna of the Mississippi
Postmaster Debbie Lappe
Word of the project spread, and contributions came in from all over the United States. On October 13, 1957, a 25-foot fiberglass statue of Mary mounted on a 20-foot concrete pedestal was dedicated. We visited the shrine on a perfect fall day and sat at the water's edge looking across the Mississippi to the Alton Bluffs in Illinois.
After our visit, we stopped by the Portage des Sioux post office to mail a letter. Postmaster Debbie Lappe told us about 1993, when the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois Rivers all flooded at once. "It was the kind of flood that comes along once in 500 years, and nearly everyone had to evacuate," she said. "But now we're planning for the town's bicentennial, which is coming up in 1999. The flood reminded us how much history we have here, and we're all working together to preserve it."
The "Our Lady of the Rivers" Shrine is also the site of the annual "Blessing of the Fleet" every July. Decorated boats gather from miles around to receive a blessing from the town priest.
of the Rivers
Portage des Sioux, Missouri
Follow the sign in the center of town