How Big Is The Mississippi River Delta

The Mississippi River Delta is one of the largest delta regions in the world. It is a large area that covers an estimated 80 000 square miles and stretches from the Gulf of Mexico to Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Missouri. Away from the land it borders, the Mississippi Delta is composed of a network of channels, wetlands, and estuaries where fresh and saltwater mix together. These diverse habitats are home to some of the planet’s most beautiful, unique and valuable ecosystems, which host an abundance of birdlife and other species of wildlife. Given its size and the number of species it supports, the delta is absolutely critical to the entire North American continent, providing an array of services.

In terms of land area, the delta covers the two southernmost states of Alabama and Mississippi and portions of Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana. It stretches southward some 250 miles, from the US-Canada border in the northeast to the Gulf of Mexico. Though much of the land is comprised of physically unstable coastal wetlands, the gaps between them are filled with cotton fields, soybean plantations, and hundreds of small villages and towns. All together, they make up an enormous economic and cultural hub. This unique environment provides a multitude of critical services to the people of the region, including fisheries, habitat for commercial and recreational outdoor activities, firewood and timber, and clean drinking water.

The Mississippi Delta has changed immensely since its inception 8,000 years ago. As sea levels have risen and the river has moved about, it has shifted shape and size significantly, due to both human and natural influences. Over the last two centuries, the delta has been particularly vulnerable to the effects of human development and climate change. Dredging the river, constructing levees and floodwalls, and diverting huge amounts of sediment for agro-industrial farming have accelerated the erosion of the banks and greatly reduced the delta’s total area. Today, the delta is losing land 1,200 times faster than it can naturally rebuild, with an estimated 60 square miles of delta wetland disappearing every year.

The Mississippi Delta is also an important migratory habitat. The area provides sustenance for some of the world’s largest flocks of migratory ducks, geese and swans, as well as shorebirds and other avian species. Numerous rare, endangered and threatened species of fish, amphibians and reptiles inhabit the delta’s waters, so it’s an important refuge and breeding ground. Millions of waterfowl and non-game birds winter in the delta each year along with numerous other species of wildlife such as muskrat, beaver, and mink.

The importance of the Mississippi Delta can’t be overstated. What happens there directly affects the lives of millions of people, not just in the United States, but in countries elsewhere. Due to its size and the large human population it sustains, the Delta is known as the ‘Most Important River Delta in North America’ and is of key importance in maintaining the domestic and global environment. It is essential for the health of both local and faraway ecosystems, filtering and purifying water supplies, and regulating flooding. Unfortunately, many of its vital functions are under threat due to growing human interference.

Economic Significance

The Mississippi Delta is also a major economic powerhouse. For decades, it has been one of the most important agricultural belts in the United States and beyond, thanks to its vast, fertile land. Nearly 65 percent of the nation’s soybeans and wheat, and over 40 percent of its rice and cotton are grown in the Delta region. The area is consistently ranked number one in US production for soybeans and rice, and its estimated $30 billion annual contribution to the US economy makes it vital to the livelihoods of millions across the country. Its importance to the world’s economy is further underscored by its success in exports, producing over $1 billion of foreign trade each year.

Environmental Challenges

Climate change is one of the biggest threats facing the Mississippi Delta today. Rising sea levels, increased flooding and coastal erosion, and drought are some of the major issues already impacting the region. As temperatures and carbon dioxide levels continue to increase, these problems are only going to be exacerbated, leading to water shortages, more areas of salinization, and more dangerous frequent storms. Additionally, the Delta is also under threat from human activities, with illegal hunting, oil and gas exploration, and overfishing all taking their toll. Pollution is also an issue, with runoff from agro-chemicals and industrial sites entering the ecosystem and disrupting the food chain.

Protection & Conservation Efforts

Given the importance of the Mississippi Delta, various conservation and preservation efforts have taken place to protect it. The US government has long been involved in protection and restoration projects in the area, while a growing number of non-profit organizations are now leading the charge as well. Groups such as the Delta Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, Delta Wildlife and the National Audubon Society are all making headway in protecting and rehabilitating the region’s land and waterways, and restoring the habitats of the threatened and endangered species that live there.

Restoration plans focus on restoring the hydrology of the Delta by breaching levees, removing sediment buildup and replenishing lands with new soil, as well as restoring lost habitats, creating new wetlands and estuaries, and reforesting the area. In addition, efforts are being made to improve state and federal legislation, encouraging and enforcing more stringent conservation measures.

Role of the Local Community

The local communities of the Mississippi Delta have an incredibly important role to play in the protection of this vital region. Many people rely on the Delta for employment, recreation, and sustenance, and it is in their interest as much as anyone’s to protect it. As such, local nonprofits and grassroots organizations are active in pressing for more effective and sustainable resources management, as well as better government policies around coastal and wetland protection, tourism development, and pollution control.

At the same time, it is increasingly important for local communities to come together to share their knowledge and resources. The Delta is full of rich cultural heritage and is an area of immense personal and historical significance, and it is essential to protect this legacy and prevent it from being lost in the face of environmental changes.


The Mississippi River Delta has come a long way since its inception 8,000 years ago, and it has indisputably become pivotal to the ecology and economy of the North American continent as a whole. Though it faces numerous environmental dangers, such as pollution, erosion, and climate change, a variety of local, state, and federal efforts are being made to preserve and protect the Delta and its contributing land and waterways, and to guard its invaluable residents and resources. Through the cooperation and hard work of the local community, it is possible to make sure that this natural wonder remains intact and vibrant for generations to come.

Raymond Strasser is a passion-driven writer and researcher, dedicated to educating readers on the topic of world rivers. With a background in Geography and Environmental Studies, Raymond provides insightful pieces which explore the impact and importance that rivers have around the world.

Leave a Comment