Mississippi River near Harpers Ferry, Iowa
|Name origin: Ojibwe word misi-ziibi, meaning “Great River”, or gichi-ziibi, meaning “Big River”|
|States||Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana|
|– left||St. Croix River, Wisconsin River, Rock River, Illinois River, Kaskaskia River, Ohio River|
|– right||Minnesota River, Des Moines River, Missouri River, White River, Arkansas River, Red River|
|Cities||Minneapolis, MN, St. Paul, MN, La Crosse, WI, Quad Cities, IA/IL, St. Louis, MO, Memphis, TN, Baton Rouge, LA, New Orleans, LA|
|– location||Itasca State Park, Clearwater County, MN|
|– elevation||1,475 ft (450 m)|
|Mouth||Gulf of Mexico|
|– location||Pilottown, Plaquemines Parish, LA|
|– elevation||0 ft (0 m)|
|Length||2,320 mi (3,734 km)|
|Basin||1,151,000 sq mi (2,981,076 km2)|
|Discharge||for mouth; max and min at Baton Rouge, LA|
|– average||593,000 cu ft/s (16,792 m3/s) |
|– max||3,065,000 cu ft/s (86,791 m3/s)|
|– min||159,000 cu ft/s (4,502 m3/s)|
The Mississippi River is the chief river of the largest drainage system in North America. Flowing entirely in the United States (though its drainage basin reaches into Canada), it rises in northern Minnesota and meanders slowly southwards for 2,320 miles (3,730 km) to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi’s watershed drains all or parts of 31 U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces between the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains. The Mississippi ranks as the fourth longest and tenth largest river in the world. The river either borders or passes through the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
Native Americans long lived along the Mississippi River and its tributaries. Most were hunter-gatherers or herders, but some, such as the Mound builders, formed prolific agricultural societies. The arrival of Europeans in the 1500s changed the native way of life as first explorers, then settlers, ventured into the basin in increasing numbers. The river served first as a barrier – forming borders for New Spain, New France, and the early United States – then as a vital transportation artery and communications link. In the 19th century, during the height of Manifest Destiny, the Mississippi and several western tributaries, most notably the Missouri, formed pathways for the western expansion of the United States.
Formed from thick layers of this river’s silt deposits, the Mississippi River Valley is one of the most fertile agricultural regions of the country, which resulted in the river’s storied steamboat era. During the American Civil War, the Mississippi’s capture by Union forces marked a turning point towards victory because of the river’s importance as a route of trade and travel, not least to the Confederacy. Because of substantial growth of cities and the larger ships and barges that supplanted riverboats, the decades following the 1900s saw the construction of massive engineering works such as levees, locks and dams, often built in combination.
Since modern development of the basin began, the Mississippi has also seen its share of pollution and environmental problems – most notably large volumes of agricultural runoff, which has led to the Gulf of Mexico dead zone off the Delta. In recent years, the river has shown a steady shift towards the Atchafalaya River channel in the Delta; a course change would prove disastrous to seaports such as New Orleans. While a system of dikes and gates has held the Mississippi in its current channel to date, the shift becomes more likely each year due to fluvial processes.
- 1 Name
- 2 Physical geography
- 3 Cultural geography
- 4 Navigation and flood control
- 5 History
- 6 Recreation
- 7 Cultural references
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
The word itself comes from Messipi, the French rendering of the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe or Algonquin) name for the river, Misi-ziibi (Great River). See below in History section for additional information.
In addition to historical traditions shown by names, there are at least two other measures of a river‘s identity, one being the largest branch (by water volume), and the other bein