Have you heard of the Mississippi River?
It’s one of the most famous rivers in the world, and for plenty of interesting reasons.
Read on to find out why!
Where is the Mississippi River?
The Mississippi River is about 2,340 miles (3,766 kilometers) long and flows through ten different states:
That means that the Mississippi River flows through 20% of the continental United States!
The Mississippi River combines with the Missouri River to form the longest river system in North America, and the fourth longest in the entire world.
The river flows from Lake Itasca in Minnesota and into the Gulf of Mexico.
Why is the Mississippi River important?
For centuries, the Mississippi River has been a very important route (path) for trade and travel.
Today, it is the cheapest way to travel between the Southeast United States.
The Mississippi provides hydroelectric power and water to several states. Hydroelectric power is when water is used to turn the generators that make electricity for turning on lights, watching TV, and more.
Unlike some kinds of electric power, hydroelectric power doesn’t create pollution.
So the Mississippi River gives electricity and water to many people around the United States, all without polluting our planet!
Another reason the Mississippi River is important is that it is used as a drainage system.
Thousands of rivers and streams drain extra water into the Mississippi, which helps prevent flooding and saves lives.
The Mississippi River also contains over 240 different fish species, which is 25% of all the fish species that can be found in North America.
The majority of the United States’ farm-raised catfish come from the Mississippi’s catfish farms.
History of the Mississippi River
The Mississippi played an important part in the lives of many Native American tribes, who used it for trading, farming, and fishing.
The first European to sail on the Mississippi River was Hernando de Soto of Spain in 1541.
In the 1700s, the state of Louisiana and parts of the Mississippi River were French territory.
After they lost the French and Indian War in in the 1760s, France had to give up some land, and the Mississippi River became an international boundary between Spanish and British territory.
For years, control of the Mississippi River switched back and forth or was shared between several countries as a result of various treaties and wars like the American Revolution.
In 1803, the Louisiana Purchase made the Mississippi River into American territory, and it quickly became a major trade route, meaning many items that were bought and sold were transported along the river.
Fight for control of the Mississippi River was a major part of the Civil War. Both the Union (North) and the Confederacy (South) knew that the Mississippi River was super important for trade and travel.
In the 1920s, water skiing was invented on the Mississippi River.
Have you heard of the famous author Mark Twain? Many of his stories take place on or near the Mississippi River, including the very well-known Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
If you haven’t read it yet, you’ll probably read it in school one day!
In 2002, a Slovenian swimmer named Martin Strel swam the entire length of the Mississippi in 68 days.
The Mississippi River has flooded several times throughout history, costing lives along with billions of dollars in damage.
Facts about the Mississippi River
The name “Mississippi” means “great river” and comes from the Ojibwa (Chippewa) Native American tribe.
The Missouri River is the only river in the United States that is longer than the Mississippi.
The Mississippi River is known for the large, paddle wheel-propelled steam boats that sail on it.
At its widest point, the Mississippi River is over seven miles (eleven kilometers) wide.
For a drop of water to travel the Mississippi River’s entire length, it takes 90 days. That’s about three months!
326 species of birds, 145 species of amphibians, and 50 species of mammals live in the Mississippi River.
At its deepest point, the Mississippi River is 200 feet deep.
Now you know why the Mississippi River is so famous!
The second longest river in the United States, the historically important Mississippi provides electricity and water to people and a home to hundreds of animal species.
Maybe you can even visit the Mississippi River one day and see for yourself!