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How Smart Are You: What States Does the Mississippi River Run Through?

There is no mistaking the Mississippi River. It’s one of North America’s longest and largest rivers, winding its way from Minnesota to Louisiana. Along its banks are small towns, big cities, rural areas, and industrial complexes, all connected by this impressive waterway. 

The river has been a lifeline for people and businesses for centuries, and it continues to be an important part of today’s economy.

Whether you’re a traveler looking to experience some of America’s history and culture or you’re just curious about this iconic river, read on to learn more about the Mississippi River.

About the Mississippi River

One of the longest rivers in the U.S., second only to the Missouri River, the Mississippi River runs from its source in Lake Itasca in Minnesota down to the Gulf of Mexico. Originally named Misi-ziibi (meaning Great River) by the Algonquin people, it later transitioned into Messipi by the French. Today, this iconic waterway is known as the Mississippi River or the Mighty Mississippi.

More than just one of the longest rivers in the U.S., it’s also a critical waterway for transportation, a water source, a wildlife habitat, and a recreational area. It provides over 35,000 jobs and is an integral component of a $12 billion shipping industry that relies on the river.

Not only that, but the Mighty Mississippi is home to a diverse range of plant and animal life alike. It provides abundant opportunities for bird watchers, naturalists, and wildlife enthusiasts.

There are also many outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy this massive river. They come to paddle, fish, hunt, boat, and more within the waters or alongside the banks. Tourism and recreational activities supply over $20 billion annually and over 300,000 jobs along the Mississippi River.

Further grasping its hold on American culture, the history along the river is just as important as the ecology. Indigenous peoples have utilized the river for its many resources for centuries. Because of this and its ever-growing popularity, the Mississippi River is also celebrated in the art world just as much as in the historical world, through novels, paintings, songs, and more.

What States Does the Mississippi River Run Through? 

The Mississippi River is a long, winding waterway that spans over 2,300 miles from its source in Minnesota to its mouth on the Gulf of Mexico.

The river flows through 10 different states on its way.

These states are Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Just south of New Orleans in Louisiana, it empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

Why Is the Mississippi River So Dirty?

While this mighty river is indeed mighty, it is also quite dirty. Sewage and industrial waste are constantly being dumped into the river. Besides that, there’s also farm and urban runoff, adding additional pollution to the river. 

And there’s more. Floodplains often wash over the lands carrying other pollutants and natural sediments into their waters. Because of this, the Mississippi River is more often than not polluted and murky. However, the color is more due to natural sediments, including sand, silt, and clay, than actual pollutants.

Can You Swim in the Mississippi River? 

Concern for swimming in the Mississippi is more about its powerful currents than possible pollutant levels and murky color. While it is more known for its commercial and transportation usage than a natural swimming pool, you can still swim in the river. 

Just be aware of those currents. Their speed depends on how high the waters are. “When the river is lower, it might move around 2.5 feet per second, but 1 cubic foot of water weighs more than 60 pounds.” (MinnPost). In other words, the force is even stronger when the water level is higher.

Although the water is not clear and full of sediments and other things, and the current is ever-changing, many still swim in the Mississippi River. In fact, in the Twin Cities, during the hot summer months, people flock to the river to cool off and often play the hot summer days away.

How Long and Deep Is the Mississippi River?

Second only to the Hudson River in the U.S., the Mississippi River measures at its deepest, around 216 feet. This depth is near Algiers Point in New Orleans. And while its deepest point is over 200 feet, it only averages 9 feet. The widest point measures more than 11 miles wide, closer to its source near Bena, Minn., at Lake Winnibigoshish. 

It’s also second in the nation in its length, as well. The Missouri River is about 2,450 feet long, measuring just about 100 feet longer than the Mississippi at 2,350 miles. The length of this mighty river is one of the main reasons it is a transportation hub.

Can Ships Travel the Mississippi River?

Because it’s a transportation hub, many ships travel the Mississippi delivering goods along the way. For centuries, ships have been navigating the length of this famous waterway. They go further up the river with each passing year. 

As with any water journey, though, there are challenges, such as the size of the ship, the water level, and the weather conditions. However, by planning carefully and using cargo boats designed specifically for these challenges, ships can navigate their way up the river without too many hurdles to conquer.

Take a Visit to the Mighty Mississippi

The Mighty Mississippi is more than just a river. It’s a transportation hub, a recreational playground, a historical icon, and an economic centerpiece for states on both sides of the waterway.

Whether you’re looking to experience the natural beauty of America’s heartland or take in some history and culture, the Mighty Mississippi has something for everyone. From Lake Itasca to New Orleans, there’s plenty to see and experience along America’s mightiest river. 

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