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Cape Girardeau, Missouri
City of Cape Girardeau
Downtown Cape Girardeau
Downtown Cape Girardeau
Cape, The City of Roses, River City
Location of Cape Girardeau in Cape Girardeau & Scott Counties, Missouri.
Location of Cape Girardeau in Cape Girardeau & Scott Counties, Missouri.
Country United States
State Missouri
Counties Cape Girardeau, Scott
Founded 1793
 • Type Council-Manager
 • City 29.12 sq mi (75.42 km2)
 • Land 29.06 sq mi (75.26 km2)
 • Water 0.06 sq mi (0.15 km2)
351 ft (107 m)
 • City 39,540
 • Density 1,357.8/sq mi (524.26/km2)
 • Metro
134,051 (2,019)
Time zone UTC−6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP Codes
63701–63703, 63705
Area code(s) 573
FIPS code 29-11242
GNIS feature ID 0731549

Cape Girardeau ( jirr-AR-doh, French: Cap-Girardeau colloquially referred to as "Cape") is a city in Cape Girardeau and Scott Counties in the U.S. state of Missouri. At the 2020 census, the population was 39,540. The city is the economic center of rural Southeast Missouri and also an emerging college town as the home of Southeast Missouri State University. It is located approximately 100 miles (161 km) southeast of St. Louis and 150 miles (241 km) north of Memphis.


Military Map of Cape Girardeau, Mo., and Vicinity, Showing the location of the Forts. Wm. Hoelcke, Captn. ^amp, Addl.... - NARA - 305778
Map of Cape Girardeau and vicinity, showing location of its forts (September 1865).

The city is named after Jean Baptiste de Girardot, who established a temporary trading post in the area around 1733. He was a French soldier stationed at Kaskaskia between 1704–1720 in the French colony of La Louisiane. The "Cape" in the city name referred to a rock promontory overlooking the Mississippi River; it was later destroyed by railroad construction. As early as 1765, a bend in the Mississippi River, about 60 miles (97 km) south of the French village of Ste. Genevieve, had been referred to as Cape Girardot or Girardeau.

The settlement of Girardeau is said to date from 1793 when the Spanish government, which had acquired Louisiana in 1764 following the French defeat in the Seven Years' War, granted Louis Lorimier, a French-Canadian, the right to establish a trading post. This gave him trading privileges and a large tract of land surrounding his posorimier was made commandant of the district and prospered from the returns on his land sales and trade with indigenous peoples, such as the Ozark Bluff Dwellers and the Mississippian people.

Also in 1793, Baron Carondelet granted land near Cape Girardeau to the Black Bob Band of the Hathawekela Shawnee, who had migrated from across the Mississippi River. The Band became known as the Cape Girardeau Shawnee. They successfully resisted removal to Indian Territory with the rest of the Shawnee tribe until 1833.

In 1799, American settlers founded the first English school west of the Mississippi River in Cape Girardeau at a landmark called Mount Tabor, named by the settlers for the Biblical Mount Tabor.

The town of Cape Girardeau was incorporated in 1808, prior to Missouri statehood. It was reincorporated as a city in 1843. The advent of the steamboat in 1835 and related river trade stimulated the development of Cape Girardeau as the biggest port on the Mississippi River between St. Louis, Missouri and Memphis, Tennessee.

During the Civil War, the city was the site of the Battle of Cape Girardeau on April 26, 1863. The Union and Confederate armies engaged in a minor four-hour skirmish, each sustaining casualties generally believed to be in the low double-digits.

For years travelers had to use ferries to cross the Mississippi River from Cape Girardeau. In September 1928 a bridge was completed between Missouri and Illinois. Built to accommodate cars, it was 20 feet (6.1 m) wide under standards of the time.

The Old Federal Courthouse, located at Broadway and Fountain Streets and built in the late 1940s, was the subject of a U.S. Supreme Court case when it was being developed. In United States v. Carmack, 329 U.S. 230 (1946), the Court upheld the federal government's authority under the Condemnation Act of 1888 to seize land owned by a state or locality.

In December 2003, the "Old Bridge" was succeeded by a new four-lane cable-stay bridge crossing the Mississippi River at Cape Girardeau. Its official name is "The Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge.", honoring former U.S. Rep. Bill Emerson (R-Mo.) The two towers of the bridge reach a height of approximately 91 meters. The "Old Bridge" was completed in September 1928 to replace a ferry and was only 20 feet (6.1 m) wide. The "Old Bridge" was demolished after the Emerson Bridge opened.

The City of Cape Girardeau was recognized in January 2008 by First Lady Laura Bush as a Preserve America Community for its work in surveying and protecting historic buildings, as well as .

The city is known to some as "The City of Roses" because of a 9-mile (14 km) stretch of highway that was once lined with dozens of rose bushes. Although there used to be many prominent rose gardens around the community, few of these gardens have been maintained. The city is also known as "Cape Girardeau: Where the River Turns a Thousand Tales," due to the history of the town and the Mississippi River.

Historic landmarks

Cape Girardeau Missouri 1993
Waterfront of Cape Girardeau along the Mississippi River during the Great Flood of 1993.

Numerous murals commemorate the city's history. The largest is the Mississippi River Tales Mural, located on the city's downtown floodwall. Covering nearly 18,000 square feet (1,700 m2), it spans the length of the downtown shopping district and features 24 panels. Behind the floodwall lies the Riverfront Park of Cape Girardeau Missouri, where riverboats dock and visitors can view the Mississippi River.

There are 39 historic sites in Cape Girardeau that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Of these, eight are historic districts, such as Cape Girardeau Commercial Historic District, which was listed in 2000 and includes multiple contributing properties. The growth of the town can be documented through Sanborn Maps, over 80 of which are available online. Other landmarks include the Fort D Historic Site and the Confederate War Memorial.

Among the city's older cemeteries are Apple Creek Cemetery, Salem Cemetery. and Old Lorimier Cemetery


Cape Girardeau is located at 37°18′33″N 89°32′47″W / 37.30917°N 89.54639°W / 37.30917; -89.54639 (37.309042, -89.546498). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 28.49 square miles (73.79 km2), of which, 28.43 square miles (73.63 km2) is land and 0.06 square miles (0.16 km2) is water. The "cape" that the city is named after no longer exists. A rock which remains from the previously existing cape can be seen on a promontory which overlooks the Mississippi River in Cape Rock Park.


Cape Girardeau has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa) with four distinct seasons and is located in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 6b. Winter typically brings a mix of rain, sleet, and snow, with occasional heavy snowfall and icing. The city has a January daily average of 33.1 °F (0.6 °C) and averages 14 days annually with temperatures staying at or below freezing; the first and last freezes of the season on average fall on October 23 and April 7, respectively. Summer is typically hazy, hot, and humid with a July daily average of 78.6 °F (25.9 °C), and there is an average of 48 days a year with high temperatures at or above 90 °F (32 °C). The average annual precipitation is 46.8 inches (1,190 mm), with the rainiest season being spring. Extremes in temperature range from 107 °F (42 °C), which last occurred on June 29, 2012, down to −18 °F (−28 °C) on January 11, 1977.

Climate data for Cape Girardeau Regional Airport, Missouri (1981–2010 normals, extremes 1960–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 73
Average high °F (°C) 42.4
Average low °F (°C) 23.9
Record low °F (°C) −18
Average precipitation inches (mm) 3.47
Average snowfall inches (cm) 3.7
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 8.6 8.7 11.0 10.6 12.3 9.8 8.9 7.6 7.7 8.5 10.0 9.8 113.5
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 2.5 2.4 1.2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.1 0.3 1.4 7.9
Source: NOAA


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 2,663
1870 3,585 34.6%
1880 3,889 8.5%
1890 4,297 10.5%
1900 4,815 12.1%
1910 8,475 76.0%
1920 10,252 21.0%
1930 16,227 58.3%
1940 19,426 19.7%
1950 21,578 11.1%
1960 24,947 15.6%
1970 31,282 25.4%
1980 34,361 9.8%
1990 34,438 0.2%
2000 35,349 2.6%
2010 37,941 7.3%
2020 39,540 4.2%

The Cape Girardeau-Jackson, MO-IL Metropolitan Statistical Area encompasses Alexander County, Illinois, Bollinger County, Missouri and Cape Girardeau County, Missouri and has a population of 96,275.

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 37,941 people, 15,205 households, and 8,466 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,334.5 inhabitants per square mile (515.3/km2). There were 16,760 housing units at an average density of 589.5 per square mile (227.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 30.13% White (30.21% Non-Hispanic White), 63.75% Black or African American, 0.23% Native American, 1.89% Asian, 0.04% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, 1.54% from other races, and 2.40% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.76% of the population.

There were 15,205 households, out of which 26.0% had children under the age of 18 living in them, 38.8% were married couples living together, 12.8% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.0% had a male householder with no wife present, and 44.3% were non-families. 33.6% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.27 and the average family size was 2.89.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 19.3% under the age of 18, 20.2% between the ages of 18 and 24, 23.5% from 25 to 44, 22.2% from 45 to 64, and 14.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age in the city was 32.1 years. The gender makeup of the city was 47.4% male and 52.6% female.


Bill Emerson Bridge
The Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge.

The City of Cape Girardeau has established a Transportation Trust Fund that implements a .5% local sales tax. All of that money is used on transportation improvement projects. General projects are also included to keep the city's streets in good condition.

On June 15, 2000 the Cape Girardeau County Commission passed Resolution 00-06 which formed the Cape Girardeau County Transportation Commission. The CGCTA now offers transportation to the citizens of Cape Girardeau County, which ultimately benefits the citizens of the city of Cape Girardeau. The services that the CGCTA offer are essentially buses and taxis.

In 2011, Cape Girardeau launched the Ride the City campaign. This dedicated 16 miles of bicycle lanes in city streets. There are lanes that are used only by bicycles and lanes where motor vehicles and bicycles can share space.

Public transit

Buses are offered to the citizens by the Cape Transit Authority and have several stops throughout the city. A general admission is $2, senior citizens are $1, and children ages 6 and under are free. Special pick-ups can be made to those who are disabled and live within three-fourths of mile from a designated stop. The Cape Girardeau County Transit Authority handles the city's bus and taxi service. Greyhound buses are also available for long-distance transit. Cape Girardeau is home to local rideshare service, carGO technologies that provides rides from anywhere in Cape Girardeau to surrounding cities such as, Jackson and Scott city.


The City of Cape Girardeau owns the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport. This is a full-service airport that offers flights to and from O'Hare Airport in Chicago, Illinois.

In popular culture

  • James McMurtry's "Song for a Deck Hand's Daughter" is set in Cape Girardeau.
  • The novel Killshot by Elmore Leonard is set in this city. The novel was adapted as a 2009 film based on Leonard's novel; numerous scenes were shot on location in Cape Girardeau.
  • Scenes for the film Gone Girl (2014), which is set in the fictional North Carthage, Missouri, were shot in Cape Girardeau.
  • The thirteenth episode of the TV series Supernatural, "Route 666", which is said to take place in Cape Girardeau.
  • The traditional folk song, "Hang Me, Oh Hang Me", most notably arranged by Dave Van Ronk, features a singer who has traveled the world, specifically mentioning visiting Cape Girardeau. The song was featured in the 2013 film Inside Llewyn Davis, being performed by Oscar Isaac twice in the movie.
  • In the novel "Train Man" (1999) by P.T. Deutermann the Thebes bridge south of Cape Girardeau spanning the Mississippi River to Illinois is a key plot point in the race by FBI investigators to find persons unknown who are sequentially demolishing all railroad bridges that cross the River, causing mayhem and massive delays for all rail transportation in the contiguous United States.


According to the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce, there are more than 100 employers in Cape Girardeau who employ at least 100 workers. The top employers in the city are:

# Employer # of Employees
1 Southeast Health 2,950
2 St. Francis Medical Center 3,143
3 Procter & Gamble 1,200
4 Southeast Missouri State University 1,107
5 Cape Girardeau Public Schools 713
6 Drury Hotels 582
7 Jackson R-II School District 479
8 Robinson Construction 475
9 Isle of Capri Casino 450
10 Mondi 428


There are over 20 different schools in Cape Girardeau. These range from pre-kindergarten to higher education. Public and private and parochial school systems are present within the city.

Public schools

Cape Central HS outside
Cape Central High School
  • Cape Girardeau Public Schools
  • Alma Schrader Elementary – 1360 Randol Ave
  • Blanchard Elementary – 1829 N Sprigg St
  • Clippard Elementary – 2880 Hopper Road
  • Franklin Elementary – 1550 Themis St
  • Jefferson Elementary – 520 S Minnesota Ave
  • Central Middle School – 1900 Thilenius St
  • Central Junior High School – 205 Caruthers St
  • Central Senior High School – 1000 S Silver Springs Road
  • Career and Technology Center – 1080 S Silver Springs Road
  • Alternative Education Center – 330 N Spring St

Private schools

  • Notre Dame Regional High School – 265 Notre Dame Dr
  • Trinity Lutheran School – 55 N Pacific St
  • Eagle Ridge Christian School – 4210 State Highway K
  • Prodigy Leadership Academy – 1301 N Middle St
  • St Mark Lutheran Preschool – 1900 Cape La Croix Road
  • St. Mary's Cathedral School – 210 S Sprigg St
  • St. Vincent De Paul Grade School – 1912 Ritter St
  • Lynwood Christian Academy – 2935 Lynwood Hills Dr


  • Cape Girardeau Partnership for Higher Education – 1080 S Silver Springs Road
  • Metro Business College – 1732 N Kingshighway St
  • Southeast Missouri State University – 1 University Plaza
  • Southeast Hospital College of Nursing & Health Sciences – 2001 William St
  • Eclipse School-Cosmetology – 52 S Plaza Way
  • Trend Setters-Cosmetology Inc – 835 S Kingshighway

Public library

The city has one public library: the Municipal Library District of the City of Cape Girardeau.

Notable people

  • Jacob M. Appel, novelist, lived in Cape Girardeau (1982–1984), set several books in Cape Girardeau
  • Leon Brinkopf (1926–1998), born and died in Cape Girardeau
  • Karilyn Brown (born c. 1947), born in Cape Girardeau; Republican member of the Arkansas House of Representatives for Pulaski County since 2015
  • Joseph Cable, a Medal of Honor recipient during the American Indian Wars
  • Shirley Crites (1934–1990), All-American Girls Professional Baseball League player
  • A.J. Ellis, former Major League Baseball catcher, born in Cape Girardeau
  • John Thomson Faris (1871–1949), clergyman, born in Cape Girardeau
  • Andrew Conway Ivy, (1893–1978), president of the American Physiological Society (1939–1941)
  • Terry Jones (born 1951), fundamentalist pastor of Dove World Outreach Center
  • Peter Kinder, 46th Lieutenant Governor of Missouri (2005–2017)
  • Richard Kinder, businessman and co-founder and executive chairman of Kinder Morgan, Inc.
  • The Limbaugh family, including political commentators, brothers David and Rush Limbaugh
  • Stephanie O'Sullivan, Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence, born in Cape Girardeau
  • Susan Beth Scott (born 1992), 2008 and 2012 U.S. Paralympic Medalist Swimmer
  • John Locke Scripps (1818–1866), journalist and biographer
  • Tony Spinner, guitarist and singer
  • Billy Swan, singer who had a #1 hit song named "I Can Help" in 1974.
  • Terry Teachout, writer
  • Robert Henry Whitelaw (1854–1937), U.S. Congressman

See also

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