Last update: November 11th, 2019 at 11:00 am
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of Memphis, also known as “Bluff City” because of its location on high bluffs above the flood levels of the Mississippi River. The city center sits next to the mud-brown Mississippi.
Surrounding suburbs are green and have a distinctly darker tone. Major roads radiate from the city center, cutting the city’s street grid pattern. The runway of a local airport appears next to the river (top left). The low country opposite the city center is dominated by farms and the broad sweep of ancient meanders on the Mississippi floodplain.
Memphis lies where Tennessee adjoins Arkansas and Mississippi, and the population of greater Memphis (1.34 million) sprawls into these neighboring states, well beyond the area shown in this image.
The city has long served as a land-water transportation hub, and that is still visible in the barge traffic on the river (opposite Mud Island) and on several interstate highways passing through. Bridges for two interstates cross the river, and cast their shadows on the water. (For scale, the Interstate 40 bridge is 0.7 miles long).
Little Rock, Arkansas, on the opposite side of the Mississippi Valley, has a similar location on bluffs overlooking meander scars of the Arkansas River, a major tributary of the Mississippi River.