Welcome to the RiverWebMuseums website! The Mississippi River is a very complex system that has changed dramatically since its formation, which is supposed to have happened during the period of the glacial retreat.
The River has carried more and more river barges and cargos during the last few years. It’s not all about commerce, though; Mississippi is a major flyway, being one of the few places used by close to half of North America’s migrating birds.
Mississippi starts in Minnesota and runs along the country until it ends it journey, in the Gulf of Mexico, splitting the U.S.A. in two areas, which are located at the river’s east and west sides.
Mississippi runs either besides or through the following ten states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana. It’s the fourth longest river in the world:
- The Nile River has a length of 4,160 miles;
- The Amazon River has a length of 3,900 miles;
- The Missouri River has a length of 2,565 miles;
- Mississippi has a length of 2,348 miles.
The River can be either very shallow or very deep, depending on the area he is running in. The deepest point was measured in Baton Rouge, being almost 200 feet deep. It’s the job of the Army’s engineers to maintain the navigable part of the river in good order, removing the mud that tends to form at the river bottom. The commercial navigation channel has to be at least nine feet deep.
From its starting point in Minnesota to its end in the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi river lowers its height gradually. While it begins at close to 1,500 feet at its starting point, the Lake Itasca in Minnesota, its downhill movement makes it reach the sea level at its end, for a difference that is over 1,460 feet.
These figures show clearly that the slope isn’t that steep, when you take the river’s length into account, so the water might appear to be still, when you are standing besides the river; nevertheless, the water movement shows the direction into which the river is moving.
The Illinois River, a major tributary, is the largest stream in Illinois, flowing for over 270 miles within the Illinois state, and having a drainage basin that covers an area of close to 30,000 square miles. It is one of the most studied rivers in the world; the scientists have studied its biology for more than 100 years.
The Illinois River meets Mississippi at Pere Marquette State Park, an 8000-acre beautiful park which is known for its beautiful fall colors, as well as for the bald eagles that are flying there during the winter.
Illinois and Canal opened in 1848 to connect the Michigan Lake and the Mississippi River, using the Illinois River as a bridge, in order to promote the naval commerce. It took close to 90 years to have dams installed on the river, but they were very welcome, because they made commercial navigation much easier, supporting heavy barge traffic.
Not only the river, but also the nearby land changes throughout the life of the river, no matter if we are talking about natural forces or human intervention, which can make significant changes on a much larger scale.
Younger rivers tend to modify the land aggressively, but as the river ages, its downcutting effect slows down; its channel doesn’t grow deeper, but rather wider, because the water slowly wears away the top edges. The Mississippi River is now in its aged phase, having many natural levees and several streams that come from Yazoo and are running along the main Mississippi River channel.
The Mississippi River basin is very large, covering close to 50% of the American mainland; it consists of a huge network of creeks, rivers and streams that empty their waters into Mississippi. The small streams are connected, just like tree branches, while the rivers and big streams drain either in large rivers or directly into the Mississippi River.
Mississippi is not a straight river; it meanders (it turns quite a bit). Sometimes the river will even make a loop, twisting back. Since the sediments will fill the channel that connects the loop with the main river, the loop can be cut off shortly.
Mississippi River floods take place with an average rate of one at about three years; many of them are dangerous, producing damage if they are not controlled properly. Fortunately, the Upper Mississippi has a powerful flood control system which is based on 60 Federal floor reservoirs, floodwalls and over 1600 agricultural levees, most of them being agricultural levees.
This website is a tribute to the Mississippi River; its existence was made possible by Thrifty, a car rental agency that offers vehicle hire services in Romania.