River people watch the rising and falling of the river carefully because their livelihood depends upon it. Floods are common occurrences, and there have been many "great floods" on the Illinois River. In these floods, the waters came into the towns and inundated streets and buildings.
One resident, Lucien Edlen, compiled his own record of great floods from 1725 through 1869. He listed "great floods" in 1725, 1772, 1785, 1786, 1792, 1810, 1826, 1828, 1836, and 1849. Tales of these floods were handed down by word of mouth through families. They were described in terms of how deep the water was as it ran through Beardstown's main street.
In Meredosia, there was a cast iron plaque
"commemorating the high water and preserving the record" of floods. The dates on the plaque, from top to bottom are: October 12, 1929; April 29, 1922; 1844: 24 feet; June 10, 1858; April 18, 1913; June 1849.
Local people took photographs of changes in the river in the 1920s and 1930s, when siltation encroached up the shores of Meredosia Lake, closing the chute to boat traffic and landlocking gun club boathouses.
There is a record of high water stages of the Illinois River at Beardstown from 1844 to 1970. It was remarked that the normal river stage is 9.2 feet at Beardstown and that flood stage is 14 feet. According to these figures, in only sixteen of the ninety-three years recorded did the river not hit 14 feet at least once during the year.