The Mississippi River

The Mississippi River is the second-longest river in North America. It flows 2,320 miles from its source at Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico. Lake Itasca is the narrowest stretch of the river, with a width of 20 to 30 feet. Lake Winnibigoshish is the widest part of the Mississippi, measuring more than 11 miles wide.

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Mississippi River Facts for Kids

  • The Mississippi River is 2,320 miles long
  • Its source is Lake Itasca in Minnesota
  • It flows to the Mississippi River Delta in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • There are over 260 different species of fish in the river
  • It flows through 10 different U.S. states

How Deep is the Mississippi River

how deep is the deepest part of the Mississippi river
Algiers Point in New Orleans

At its headwaters, Lake Itasca in Minnesota, the river’s depth is 18 inches (3 feet). It’s the shallowest point of the river. The deepest point is Algiers Point in New Orleans, Louisiana where it is 200 feet deep (61 meters).

Where Does the Mississippi River Start and End

Mississippi River Delta

From its source at Lake Itasca in Minnesota, the Mississippi River covers a distance of 3,766 kilometers (2,320 miles) until it reaches its final destination at its Delta in the Gulf of Mexico.

Do Alligators Live in the Mississippi River?

Alligators do not typically live in the Mississippi River.

While you may see an alligator, it is not commonplace for them to live. Instead, alligators live in swampy and marshy areas, like slow rivers and bayous.

The Mississippi has a large amount of water that is not a suitable living environment for an alligator.

How Many Tributaries Does the Mississippi River Have?

A tributary is what we call a stream or river that flows into a larger river.

There are 250 tributaries of the Mississippi River.

Some of those tributaries are major, while others are minor. The major tributaries include the Ohio river, Red, Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas rivers. 

Importance of the Mississippi River in American History

The River has played an important role throughout history. It has always been a route for travel and trade. The Native American tribes used it for fishing, farming, and trading.

For generations, the ownership of the Mississippi was shared by many countries until the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 made it an American territory. As a trade route, many items that were bought and sold were moved along the river.

It remains one of the cheapest ways to travel in the Southeast US. It also provides hydroelectric power and water to many states. 

Is it Safe to Swim in the Mississippi River?

Mississippi River
Mississippi River Iowa

No, it is not safe to swim in the Mississippi.

Even the most experienced and strong swimmer should not swim in the river even for a dip.

The large river has strong currents that are unpredictable. Even the edge of the water can be dangerous.

In addition to the currents, there are dangers lurking underneath the water that you cannot see.

The muddy water is also toxic as a result of the pesticides, fertilizer, and chemicals that runoff from the farms and factories. 

Is the Mississippi River an Ecosystem?

Probably the most complex floodplain river system in the Northern Hemisphere, the Mississippi River is the second-largest river in North America after the Mississippi.

This river winds its way through the heart of the United States over 2,300 miles, passing through Minnesota forests and the deltas of Louisiana.

It is a source of nutrients, sediment, and water in the Gulf, which impacts its ecology, circulation, and geochemistry.

Is the Mississippi River Man-Made or Natural?

The Mississippi River is a combination of both natural and man-made lakes. 

The area of the river that is in the upper Mississippi is where most of the natural and artificial lakes are located. 

Lake Onalaska is a reservoir near the Black River and the Mississippi River is near La Crosse, Wisconsin is 4 miles wide (6.4 km). It was created by Lock and Dam No. 7.

Is the Mississippi River Used for Transport?

The Mississippi River system, with its connecting tributaries, is used mainly for the transportation of manufactured and agricultural goods over the span of the country.

In addition, the river is used in the transportation of cargo on barges pushed by tugboats.

One of the most significant products transported along the river are products made from petroleum, such as kerosene, gasoline, lubricating oil, and fuel oil.

Coal is also transported along the Mississippi River.

Is the Mississippi River Water Clean?

Yes, the Mississippi River is clean. It may seem surprising that the river is clean because the water seems brown in color and muddy.

Despite what you might think, there is no pollution behind this color, just sediment. Fine particles of sand, silt, clay, along with other materials found in the water contribute to the color of the water.

This color, along with the quality, changes depending on where you are looking at it.

The further north you go along the Mississippi River, the cleaner it gets.

As the Mississippi flows south, it moves through urban and farm areas. These areas are where the river appears brown.

What Animals Live in the Mississippi River?

Mississippi River Bird

There are many various animal species that live on the Mississippi River.

There are over 120 species of fish that call the Mississippi home, including catfish, walleye, sauger, largemouth bass, and smallmouth bass.

Mussels also live in the Mississippi.

There is plenty of animal life that live along the banks; floodplains and bluffs surround the area.

These animals include deer, beaver, otters, muskrats, and coyotes. You may see other mammals residing along the banks of the Mississippi.
Birds benefit from the Mississippi River valley’s diversity in habitats.

There are dangerous and venomous snakes that live in the Mississippi.

These snakes include coral snakes, the copperhead, cottonmouth, and various rattlesnakes. These rattlesnakes include diamondback, pygmy, and timber rattlesnakes.

What are the Uses of the Mississippi River?

There are many commercial uses.

It is a route for travel and transportation.

The River also provides water and hydroelectric power to many states.

There are many cargo barges that travel up and down the Mississippi carrying loads like iron, steel, gravel, sand, sulfur, and crushed rock, among other items. 

What is the Biggest Fish in the Mississippi River?

The biggest fish in the river is the blue catfish. This is the largest species of catfish found in North America. This type of fish can be as heavy as 150 pounds.

This fish is among the 120 different species of fish found in the Mississippi River. 

What Kind of Plants Live in the Mississippi River?

There are many plants living in and along the Mississippi River.

  • Cattails
  • Spider Lillies
  • Cypress trees,
  • Swamp rose

In addition, there is a large amount of natural cover provided by plants including, millets, sedges, and pondweeds. 

What Kind of System is the Mississippi River?

The Mississippi River is part of the riverine network. The Mississippi River System is also known as the Western Rivers.

This river system includes the Mississippi River and all the waterways that connect to it. It is known as the largest drainage basin in the US. 

What Marine Life is Found in the Mississippi River?

There is a large amount of animal life around the river. It provides shelter and food for mammals, unique fish, and migrating birds. Many of the birds spend the summer on the river banks.

The forests and grasses along the river give them a good place to eat and find shelter while they migrate. There are over 120 fish species in the river, including mussels, which are rejuvenating their population.

Many mammals are located along the riverbank, including beaver, muskrats, deer, coyote, and otters. There are other mammals you will find along the river. 

What States Does the Mississippi River Run Through?

We already know that the Mississippi River is the longest river in the US, at 2,320 miles long. It is considered one of the best American waterways.

The Mississippi River runs through 10 states.

  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Arkansas
  • Tennessee
  • Missouri
  • Iowa
  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Wisconsin
  • Minnesota.

The river starts in Minnesota and ends at the Gulf of Mexico. The Mississippi River acts as a boundary between many states. It ranges in width from 20 feet to 11 miles.

The five states that are along the east side of the river are Wisconsin, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi. The three states that run along the west side of the river are Iowa, Missouri, and Arkansas. 

What Type of Ecosystem is the Mississippi River?

The Mississippi River is considered a floodplain river ecosystem. A floodplain is an area where the land is covered with water and a river, in this case, the Mississippi River, burst on the banks. A floodplain forms when there is deposition and erosion.

The erosion wears does the spurs, which form a flat and broad area on both sides of the river. A floodplain ecosystem is incredibly important to the environment.

This type of ecosystem creates a habitat for wildlife, which is essential for the animals. In addition, a floodplain helps to improve the quality of the water while protecting the communities around the river. 


Why is the Mississippi River Important to the United States?

The Mississippi River is the most important and largest river in the US. It is an extensive river system. It drains 1,260,000 miles which means it is the largest drainage basin in the US. The Mississippi River is the third-largest drainage basin in the world.

In the past, the Mississippi River connects the Northwest territory to the ports in New Orleans. It also connected the Northwest territory to the Louisiana Territory and the Caribbean. This river connection provided a way for the settlers to travel from various places that were far away.

The Mississippi River provides crop irrigation for farms and farmers, as well as food and water for the people that live along the Mississippi.

The water that the Mississippi offers can be used for washing and rinsing clothes and household cleaning. In addition, it provides water for gardens, as well as fresh fish for food. Among the various fish species, the river holds mollusks and crustaceans. 

More Facts about the Mississippi River

  • Water-skiing was invented on Lake Pepin, which is between Minnesota and Wisconsin.
  • The Mississippi River is so long that it takes 90 days for one single drop of water to travel the entire length of the Mississippi River.
  • Martin Strel, a Slovenian swimmer is famous for swimming the length of entire rivers. He conquered the mighty Mississippi over 68 days in 2002.
  • Many of Mark Twain’s famous stories are closely related to the Mississippi River, the most famous being ‘Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’
  • Over 50 cities in the US rely on this massive giant of a river for water every day.
  • Besides that, it is believed that around 15 million people rely on the tributaries of the river basin to stay alive.
  • Tributaries are streams or rivers, which will flow into the river itself. That’s so cool that it helps so many people out.
  • The Great River Road, which runs alongside the river, was created in 1938.
  • The Great River Road runs through about 110 counties and parishes.
  • Iowa’s 152m Pike’s Peak was named after a man called Zebulon Pike. He was a great explorer who went and discovered the Upper Mississippi River in 1805.
  • From its source, where the river begins, in northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River drops nearly 450m. That is one big drop. Imagine trying to jump off something that’s 450m long?
  • The Mississippi and Missouri Rivers come together to form the longest river system in the USA and North America. It is also the fourth-longest in the world.
  • The Mississippi River is full of history from Native American tribes, the American Civil War, European explorers and the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. Considering how big it is, that must have been some flood.
  • The first bridge built across the Mississippi River was in 1855.
  • The first railroad bridge was finished a year later in 1856.
  • In the year A.D. 1250, there was an ancient metropolis that was called Cahokia, Illinois. Unbelievably it had more people living there than in London!