The Mississippi River

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The 25 Longest Rivers in the World
The River as a Lifeline
The River as a Boundary
Geography links

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The Mississippi is the world's fourth-longest river at 3,870 miles, including the Missouri River. It flows from its source, at Lake Itasca, in Minnesota, to the Gulf of Mexico. It is the longest river in the United States.

The Mississippi, especially in its lower sections, can overflow its banks with disastrous results for the people living nearby. Federal and state governments are very vigilant in keeping up with river flow patterns and making sure that such flooding is minimal.

Many different kinds of wildlife make their homes in the river, including 241 species of fish, 37 species of mussel, 45 amphibians, 50 mammals, and a full 40 percent of the entire country's migratory birds.

The first European to see the Mississippi River was Hernando de Soto, in 1541. The Frenchmen Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet traveled down the Mississippi as far as the Arkansas River in 1673. Another French explorer, Ren&233;-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, sailed down the river to its delta in 1682. When he got there, La Salle claimed the entire Mississippi region for France.

The river formed the western boundary of the United States from 1783 until 1803 and the Louisiana Purchase. American explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark traveled the length of the Mississippi River on their journey west with the Corps of Discovery.

Today, the Mississippi is one of the busiest rivers in the world, serving mainly as a commercial waterway but also a tourist destination.




 Facts About the Mississippi River


3,870 miles


Lake Itasca, Minnesota


Gulf of Mexico, New Orleans

Countries Flows Through

United States

Major Cities Flows By/Through

St. Paul, Minn.; St. Louis, Mo.; Memphis, Tenn.; New Orleans, La.

Where Name Comes From

"Father of Waters" in Algonquian language

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David White