Waterways Experiment Station

Last updated
Waterways Experiment Station

Waterways Experiment Station (1968).png

Entrance to WES (1968).
USA Mississippi location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Usa edcp location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location Roughly bounded by Spillway, Durden Creek, Tennessee Rd., and Dam Spillway, Vicksburg, Mississippi
Coordinates 32°17′50″N90°52′10″W / 32.29722°N 90.86944°W / 32.29722; -90.86944 Coordinates: 32°17′50″N90°52′10″W / 32.29722°N 90.86944°W / 32.29722; -90.86944
Area 673 acres (272 ha)
Built 1930
Architect US Army Corps of Engineers
Architectural style WES
NRHP reference # 00001511 [1]
Added to NRHP December 13, 2000

The Waterways Experiment Station, also known as WES-Original Cantonment in Vicksburg, Mississippi, is a sprawling 673-acre (272 ha) complex built in 1930 as a United States Army Corps of Engineers research facility. Its campus is the site of the headquarters of the Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) of the Corps of Engineers. WES is the largest of the four Corps of Engineers' research and development laboratories.[ further explanation needed ]

Vicksburg, Mississippi City in Mississippi, United States

Vicksburg is the only city in, and county seat of, Warren County, Mississippi, United States. It is located 234 miles (377 km) northwest of New Orleans at the confluence of the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers, and 40 miles (64 km) due west of Jackson, the state capital. It is located on the east bank of the Mississippi River across from the state of Louisiana.

United States Army Corps of Engineers federal agency under the Department of Defense and a major Army command

The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is a U.S. federal agency under the Department of Defense and a major Army command made up of some 37,000 civilian and military personnel, making it one of the world's largest public engineering, design, and construction management agencies. Although generally associated with dams, canals and flood protection in the United States, USACE is involved in a wide range of public works throughout the world. The Corps of Engineers provides outdoor recreation opportunities to the public, and provides 24% of U.S. hydropower capacity.

Engineer Research and Development Center

The Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) is a US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) laboratory organization whose mission is to "Provide science, technology, and expertise in engineering and environmental sciences in support of our Armed Forces and the Nation to make the world safer and better." The headquarters is located in Vicksburg, Mississippi, on the site of an antecedent organization, the Waterways Experiment Station.

The facility was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 2000 in part for its architecture. The listing was for a 16-acre (6.5 ha) area roughly bounded by Spillway, Durden Creek, Tennessee Rd., and Dam Spillway, in Vicksburg, with five contributing buildings and three contributing structures. [1]

National Register of Historic Places federal list of historic sites in the United States

The National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) is the United States federal government's official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation for their historical significance. A property listed in the National Register, or located within a National Register Historic District, may qualify for tax incentives derived from the total value of expenses incurred preserving the property.


Land acquisition history and extent of WES. Waterways Experiment Station (Acquisitions).png
Land acquisition history and extent of WES.

The modern interest in scale modeling to study hydraulic engineering may be traced back to a demonstration model of flow over a weir in a glass-sided flume at the University of Michigan in the late 19th century. A visiting professor from the Technical College at Dresden, Hubert Engels  (de ), witnessed the model and upon his return, built a similar model in Dresden. Other hydraulic models were built at Karlsruhe and Delft (under the supervision of Prof. Jo Thijsse  (nl )) soon afterwards. John Freeman is credited with reviving interest in hydraulic models in the United States, establishing a traveling fellowship in his name with the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1925 after repeated visits to the laboratory in Dresden. [2]

University of Michigan Public research university in Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States

The University of Michigan, often simply referred to as Michigan, is a public research university in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The university is Michigan's oldest; it was founded in 1817 in Detroit, as the Catholepistemiad, or University of Michigania, 20 years before the territory became a state. The school was moved to Ann Arbor in 1837 onto 40 acres (16 ha) of what is now known as Central Campus. Since its establishment in Ann Arbor, the university campus has expanded to include more than 584 major buildings with a combined area of more than 34 million gross square feet spread out over a Central Campus and North Campus, two regional campuses in Flint and Dearborn, and a Center in Detroit. The university is a founding member of the Association of American Universities.

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology University in Karlsruhe

The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) is a public research university and one of the largest research and educational institutions in Germany. KIT was created in 2009 when the University of Karlsruhe, founded in 1825 as a public research university and also known as the "Fridericiana", merged with the Karlsruhe Research Center, which had originally been established in 1956 as a national nuclear research center.

Delft University of Technology university

Delft University of Technology also known as TU Delft, is the largest and oldest Dutch public technological university, located in Delft, Netherlands. It counts as one of the best universities for engineering and technology worldwide, typically seen within the top 20. It is repeatedly considered the best university of technology in the Netherlands.

The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 prompted Congress to pass the Flood Control Act of 1928, authorizing numerous Corps of Engineers projects to control flooding along the Mississippi River. Meanwhile, Freeman campaigned for a national hydraulic laboratory, which resulted in a 1928 bill sponsored by Sen. Joseph Ransdell proposing construction of a laboratory in Washington, DC under the auspices of the Bureau of Standards after gaining the ear of then-Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover. After passing the Senate, Chief of Engineers General Edgar Jadwin testified against the proposed location before the House of Representatives, stating the laboratory should serve as a practical study of the Mississippi River, and as such, should be located on the Mississippi itself. As a result, the House deferred a decision on the national hydraulic laboratory until the following session. Jadwin's subordinates testified before the House in 1929 after visiting European hydraulic laboratories. Their testimony pointed out the differences in scale between North American rivers and European rivers would require larger models and more flexibility. [2]

Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 1927 flood of the Mississippi River

The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 was the most destructive river flood in the history of the United States, with 27,000 square miles (70,000 km2) inundated up to a depth of 30 feet (9 m). To try to prevent future floods, the federal government built the world's longest system of levees and floodways.

The Flood Control Act of 1928 authorized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to design and construct projects for the control of floods on the Mississippi River and its tributaries as well as the Sacramento River in California. It was sponsored by Sen. Wesley L. Jones (R) of Washington and Rep. Frank R. Reid (R) of Illinois, in response to the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927.

Joseph E. Ransdell American politician and lawyer

Joseph Eugene Ransdell was an attorney and politician from Louisiana. Beginning in 1899, he was elected for seven consecutive terms as United States representative from Louisiana's 5th congressional district. He subsequently served for three terms in the United States Senate from Louisiana before being defeated in the 1930 Democratic primary for the seat by Governor Huey Long.

Memphis, Tennessee was proposed as the first site for a hydraulic laboratory in June 1929, but once the Mississippi River Commission headquarters were moved from St. Louis to Vicksburg in November, the hydraulic laboratory followed, with land purchased near Durden Creek on February 14, 1930. [2]

Memphis, Tennessee City in Tennessee, United States

Memphis is a city located along the Mississippi River in southwestern Shelby County, Tennessee, United States. The 2017 city population was 652,236, making Memphis the largest city on the Mississippi River, second-largest city in Tennessee, as well as the 25th largest city in the United States. Greater Memphis is the 42nd largest metropolitan area in the United States, with a population of 1,348,260 in 2017. The city is the anchor of West Tennessee and the greater Mid-South region, which includes portions of neighboring Arkansas and Mississippi. Memphis is the seat of Shelby County, the most populous county in Tennessee. As one of the most historic and cultural cities of the southern United States, the city features a wide variety of landscapes and distinct neighborhoods.

WES's role as the first federal hydraulics research facility was to help the Mississippi River Commission develop and implement a flood control plan for the lower Mississippi Valley. The first river model, a model of the Illinois River built in the summer of 1930 to establish the backwater limit of the Mississippi, was dug in natural soil with a grapefruit knife. [2] From those modest beginnings, WES has grown steadily to become perhaps the largest and most sophisticated research facility of its kind in the world.[ according to whom? ]

Historical organizational structure

In 1968, hydraulic studies at WES were divided into five divisions: [3]

Mississippi Basin Model

The Mississippi Basin Model was the largest single project undertaken by WES. It was initiated by then-Chief of Engineers Eugene Reybold in 1943. Construction took place from 1947 through 1966, and its scope included most of the Mississippi River and its tributaries (excluding the upper reach and the lower reach below Baton Rouge). The partially-completed model was used to create flood control strategies during the April 1952 flood on the Missouri River. [3]

Current mission

Today there are over 1,200 employees,[ needs update ] including several full-time members of the United States Armed Forces. Over 650 of these employees are engineers and scientists who work in such areas as hydraulics, oceanography, chemistry, electronics, physics, mathematics, soils, seismology, limnology, forestry, microbiology.

WES research is carried out in five separate, but closely interrelated[ further explanation needed ] laboratories: Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory, Geotechnical Laboratory, Structures Laboratory, Environmental Laboratory, and Information Technology Laboratory.

The history of engineering is the story of men and women in their attempts to understand, control, and accommodate their environment. In 1929 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers established a small hydraulics laboratory in Vicksburg, Mississippi, in recognition of the increasingly vital role of scientific investigation in a laboratory setting as a necessary adjunct to the age-old practice of actual hands-on observation. Discoveries emanating from the laboratory, designated as the Waterways Experiment Station, paid immediate dividends and sparked a new confidence among the nation’s engineering community to make bold advancements and challenge or affirm long-standing doctrines. This initial success broadened the Waterways Experiment Station’s activities from mere hydraulic experiments for the Mississippi River to a Corp of Engineers-wide mission encompassing diverse fields of research. [4] [5]

Related Research Articles

Yazoo River river in the United States of America

The Yazoo River is a river in the U.S. state of Mississippi. It is considered by some to mark the southern boundary of what is called the Mississippi Delta, a broad floodplain that was cultivated for cotton plantations before the American Civil War. It has continued to be devoted to large-scale agriculture.

Edgar Jadwin United States Army general

Edgar Jadwin, C.E. was a U.S. Army officer who fought in the Spanish–American War and World War I, before serving as Chief of Engineers from 1926 to 1929.

Mississippi Valley Division

The United States Army Corps of Engineers Mississippi Valley Division (MVD) is responsible for the Corps water resources programs within 370,000-square-miles of the Mississippi River Valley, as well as the watershed portions of the Red River of the North that are within the United States. It excludes the entire watersheds of the Missouri River and Ohio River, and portions of the Arkansas River and the Red River of the South, but otherwise encompasses the entire Mississippi River from Lake Itasca, Minnesota, to the Gulf of Mexico. The district includes all or parts of 13 states: Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and South Dakota.

Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory

The Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) is a United States Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research and Development Center research facility headquartered in Hanover, New Hampshire, that provides scientific and engineering support to the U.S. government and its military with a core emphasis on cold environments. CRREL also provides technical support to non-government customers.

HEC-RAS software for modeling the hydraulics of water flow

HEC-RAS is a computer program that models the hydraulics of water flow through natural rivers and other channels. Prior to the recent update to Version 5.0 the program was one-dimensional, meaning that there is no direct modeling of the hydraulic effect of cross section shape changes, bends, and other two- and three-dimensional aspects of flow. The release of Version 5.0 introduced two-dimensional modeling of flow as well as sediment transfer modeling capabilities. The program was developed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers in order to manage the rivers, harbors, and other public works under their jurisdiction; it has found wide acceptance by many others since its public release in 1995.

SMS is a complete program for building and simulating surface water models from Aquaveo. It features 1D and 2D modeling and a unique conceptual model approach. Currently supported models include ADCIRC, CMS-FLOW2D, FESWMS, TABS, TUFLOW, BOUSS-2D, CGWAVE, STWAVE, CMS-WAVE (WABED), GENESIS,PTM, and WAM.

Hudson's equation, also known as Hudson's formula, is an equation used by coastal engineers to calculate the minimum size of riprap required to provide satisfactory stability characteristics for rubble structures such as breakwaters under attack from storm wave conditions.

Cellular confinement confinement system used in construction and geotechnical engineering

Cellular confinement systems (CCS)—also known as geocells—are widely used in construction for erosion control, soil stabilization on flat ground and steep slopes, channel protection, and structural reinforcement for load support and earth retention. Typical cellular confinement systems are geosynthetics made with ultrasonically welded high-density polyethylene (HDPE) strips or novel polymeric alloy (NPA)—and expanded on-site to form a honeycomb-like structure—and filled with sand, soil, rock, gravel or concrete.

Wax Lake

Wax Lake was a lake in St. Mary Parish, Louisiana that was converted into an outlet channel to divert water from the Atchafalaya River to the Gulf of Mexico.

The Hydraulics Research Station (HRS) was created by the UK Department of Scientific and Industrial Research in 1947. The Research Station was based in Wallingford, near Oxford. It was established to deal with “looser boundary” problems such as coastal erosion, flood protection and the silting and scouring of rivers, estuaries and harbours. The Hydraulics Research Station was housed at Howbery Park as a government establishment until 1982, when it was privatised from the Department of the Environment (DoE) to become Hydraulics Research Station Limited. It is now known as HR Wallingford. During its existence, HRS contributed to advance hydraulics research. It also worked on water-related projects in the UK and around the world.

2011 Mississippi River floods

The Mississippi River floods in April and May 2011 were among the largest and most damaging recorded along the U.S. waterway in the past century, comparable in extent to the major floods of 1927 and 1993. In April 2011, two major storm systems deposited record levels of rainfall on the Mississippi River watershed. When that additional water combined with the springtime snowmelt, the river and many of its tributaries began to swell to record levels by the beginning of May. Areas along the Mississippi itself experiencing flooding included Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway

The Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway is a flood control component of the Mississippi River and Tributaries Project located on the west bank of the Mississippi River in southeast Missouri just below the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. The construction of the floodway was authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1928 and later modified by the Flood Control Act of 1965. Its purpose is to divert water from the Mississippi River during major flood events and lower the flood stages upstream, notably at Cairo, Illinois.

Mississippi River Basin Model scale model of the Mississippi River basin

The Mississippi River Basin Model Waterways Experiment Station, located near Clinton, Mississippi, was a large-scale hydraulic model of the entire Mississippi River basin, covering an area of 200 acres. The model was built from 1943 to 1966 and in operation from 1949 until 1973. By comparison, the better known San Francisco Bay Model covers 1.5 acres and the Chesapeake Bay Model covers 8 acres. The model is now derelict, but open to the public within Buddy Butts Park, Jackson.

Morrough "Mike" Parker O'Brien, Jr. was an American hydraulic engineering professor and is considered the founder of modern coastal engineering. In addition to his academic work, O'Brien served as a consultant on a variety of government and private sector projects including work for General Electric. O'Brien's government career culminated in a presidential appointment to the National Science Board.

Allatoona Dam

Allatoona Dam is a concrete gravity dam on the Etowah River, located east of Cartersville in Bartow County in the U.S. state of Georgia. It was authorized by the Flood Control Acts of 1941 and 1944. Delayed due to World War II, construction on the dam began in 1946. The reservoir began to fill in during December 1949 and the dam and power station were operation in January 1950. The power station has an installed capacity of 85 MW and the dam facility is owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Geospatial Research Laboratory

The Geospatial Research Laboratory is a component of the Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), a US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) laboratory organization whose mission is to "Provide science, technology, and expertise in engineering and environmental sciences in support of our Armed Forces and the Nation to make the world safer and better." The laboratory is colocated with the Army Geospatial Center in the Humphreys Engineer Center adjacent to Fort Belvoir. The headquarters is located in Vicksburg, Mississippi, on the site of an antecedent organization, the Waterways Experiment Station. GRL conducts geospatial research, development, technology and evaluation of current and emerging geospatial technologies that will help characterize and measure phenomena within the physical (terrain) and social (cultural) environments encountered by the Army. GRL research areas and capabilities include terrain analysis and reasoning; passive and active spectral signature analysis; fluorescence; photogrammetry; terrain visualization; precision surveying and mapping; image analysis; data management; geographic information systems; data/image fusion; and spatio-temporal reasoning and numerical analysis.

Giorgio Bidone Italian engineer

Giovanni Giorgio Bidone was an Italian engineer, mathematician and an experimenter in the field of hydraulics.


  1. 1 2 National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places . National Park Service.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Vogel, Herbert D. (March–April 1961). "Origin of the Waterways Experiment Station". The Military Engineer. 53 (352): 132–135. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  3. 1 2 Tiffany, Joseph B. (1968). "Appendix V: Hydraulics Division". History of the Waterways Experiment Station. United States Army Corps of Engineers. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  4. Fatherree, Ben H. (2004). The First 75 Years: History of Hydraulics Engineering at the Waterways Experiment Station. Vicksburg, Mississippi: U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  5. First 75 Years full document (but section links not functioning 5/2011)