How Does The Mississippi River Look Now

Social Impact

At the heart of the epic Mississippi River is the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. Such a natural disaster has had a lasting impact on the Mississippi River. In the wake of the flood, the Army Corps of Engineers implemented a system of dams and reservoirs to control water levels in the river. This system of dams and reservoirs has drastically changed the face of the Mississippi basin, particularly the Mississippi Delta region of Louisiana.
Ever since the dams and reservoirs were erected, many species of wildlife have begun to disappear from the Mississippi basin, as have the traditional ways of life of the rural people who live along its banks. As the waters rise and fall, so do the livelihoods of thousands of people living along the river, who rely on fishing and farming for their support. The effects of the weather unpredictability can reverberate through local economies and inflate health risks.
These ecological and economic changes were further exacerbated by the Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to place levees along the river. The levees act like walls, separating the Mississippi River from its floodplains. This limits the amount of flooding that occurs along the river and blocks vital sediment, nutrients and organic matter that historically would have been replenished to the river basin. The lack of sediment, nutrients and organic matter is particularly problematic in areas already suffering from soil erosion and contamination.

Environmental Impact

The Mississippi River is the second longest river in the United States, and it plays an important role in global water conservation. The river supplies drinking water to 18 states, playgrounds for recreational activities, habitats for endangered species and ecosystems for farmlands and wetlands, but also industrial and urban areas. Although it continues to provide various benefits to millions of people, the Mississippi River is facing several threats due to both human and natural processes.
The greatest challenge is that of water pollution from runoff from urban, agricultural and industrial sources. Excess fertilizers, pesticides and other pollutant residues in the runoff have made their way into the river, where they are causing eutrophication, algae blooms and excessive growth of aquatic plants. This is having a serious negative impact on the ecological balance of the river and its ecosystem.
The runoff is also affecting the quality of the water. According to the EPA, “The Mississippi River carries approximately 475,000 metric tons of sediment each day into the Gulf of Mexico. Pollutants such as PCBs and mercury now concentrations higher than standards set by the Clean Water Act are also found in the river as a result of chemical runoff.” The sediment and pollutants are then ingested by aquatic species and fish, leading to health issues.
The overabundance of sediment is also causing physical damage to the river, leading to erosion and excessive siltation. Erosion can destabilize shorelines and cause the river to become narrower and shallower, preventing its usage. This further leads to flooding and land loss along the banks of the Mississippi River.

Political Impact

The Mississippi River is also facing an array of political issues as well. In recent years, states surrounding the river have been heavily contested for their control of resources and access to the waterway. For example, the state of Missouri launched a lawsuit against the state of Illinois in 2018, contesting Illinois’s decision to allow barge traffic on the Mississippi River. Missouri alleged that the move threatened the safety of Missouri citizens and its overall environmental health.
Climate change poses an additional risk to the Mississippi River and its future. Climate change is predicted to cause increased instances of heavy rain and severe flooding throughout the region. This could cause serious damage to the river’s ecosystem and infrastructure, at a time when the states surrounding the Mississippi are already grappling with the fiscal strain imposed by the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927.
Heightened temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns caused by climate change will also increase the demand for water, further straining the river’s already shaky infrastructure. This will place additional burdens on already fragile water resources, with unpredictable effects on the lives of the people that rely on the river.

Technological Impact

The Army Corps of Engineers, in collaboration with environmental agencies, universities and private firms, are striving to implement technological solutions to improve the health of the Mississippi River and its surrounding ecosystem. Technological solutions such as high-tech drones, mobile monitoring platforms and satellite data are being utilized in order to develop more accurate and comprehensive assessments of the river’s health.
These solutions are also being implemented to help improve flood control and water management strategies along the river. Advanced analytics, artificial intelligence and automated systems are being used to identify and monitor water pollution, gauge the amount of sediment and pollutants in the river, and map out areas in need of restorative relief. Such technological solutions could potentially go a long way in helping to improve the health of the Mississippi River and its associated ecosystem.

Cultural Impact

The Mississippi River has served as an integral part of American culture adding beauty and drama to the lives of people all across the country. From Mark Twain’s iconic literature to civil rights-era activism like the Freedom Riders, the Mississippi’s symbolism and impact on American life and culture cannot be dismissed.
The Mississippi River has captivated the imagination of the American people with its majestic beauty, and its importance to the American cultural and spiritual identity has been appreciated for generations. The river is a cultural touchstone, serving as a place of spiritual, historical and aesthetic reference.
It is also home to hundreds of archaeological sites and Native American settlements, attesting to the importance of the Mississippi to generations of people who have lived and worked along its banks. Consequently, the river has become a powerful symbol of life, hope and resilience for the millions of people and creatures who depend on it for their survival.

Economic Impact

The Mississippi River provides a great deal of economic support to its 18 states. As a hub for trade and transportation, the Mississippi supports hundreds of businesses, from shipping and ports to tourism and recreation. It also helps to attract investments from around the world.
The river serves as a vital waterway for countless industries, providing access to trading centers and resources that are otherwise difficult to access. The nation’s midsection, in particular, relies heavily on the Mississippi as a transportation route for its commerce and industry, and more than 50 percent of all U.S. barges transport goods up and down the Mississippi.
The river also provides numerous cultural, recreational and ecological services to the region. From fishing and hunting to rafting and bird watching, the Mississippi and its surrounding ecosystems provide significant economic benefits to the people that live along its banks.

Community Impact

For centuries, the Mississippi River has served as an economic cornerstone for numerous U.S. cities and communities. The Mississippi Delta and the cities of Memphis, St. Louis and New Orleans have long been historic centers for trade, industry and culture. The river has also served as an important source of natural resources, providing food and sustenance to thousands of people.
Today, the river’s cultural and economic impact remains undiminished. It is a source of pride for numerous communities, providing job stability for many and even aiding in the development of the region’s craft industry. The Mississippi is not only an economic powerhouse, but also a hub for art, culture and community outreach programs.
The river also continues to play an important role in the lives of the people who live along its banks. It is a place of refuge and restoration, a source of spiritual meaning, and an important reminder of the richness of the region’s history and culture.

Educational Impact

The Mississippi River is also an important source of educational support for the region. Numerous museums, libraries and schools can be found along its banks, focusing on the river’s natural and cultural history.
For example, the Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Vicksburg, Mississippi, serves as an important educational institution for young people in the region, educating them about the importance of conservation and the impacts of water pollution.
In addition, the Mississippi Delta National Research Center focuses on conserving the biological diversity of the river and its surrounding ecosystems, while providing educational programs and research opportunities to students.
Moreover, universities such as the University of Louisiana at Monroe and the University of Mississippi provide students with an opportunity to study the unique history and ecological diversity of the Mississippi River and its associated lands.

Invasive Species Impact

One of the greatest threats to the Mississippi River’s health and well-being is the presence of invasive species. These species can disrupt the ecological balance of the river, causing damage to its habitats, reducing biodiversity and impacting its water quality.
Invasive species have been known to consume the food sources of native species, compete for resources and destabilize aquatic systems. These issues have been exacerbated by the rise in global shipping, which often times carry a number of invasive species to the region each year.
Governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations have been working together in order to identify and address the problem of invasive species. But due to limited resources, these efforts have been limited in scope.
New technology and approaches are being developed in order to address the issue. For example, new mapping technology is being used to locate and identify the presence of invasive species, and researchers are developing new strategies for controlling and eradicating these species.


The Mississippi River has served as a vital part of American life and culture for centuries. It is not just a body of water, but a symbol of resilience and hope. The river’s health is of paramount importance, but it faces a number of serious threats from climate change, pollution and invasive species.
As such, it is important for governments, communities, scientists, and the general public to work together in order to protect this important resource and ensure its sustained health. From installing technological solutions to educate communities about conservation, to implementing water management strategies and fighting against the spread of invasive species, there are a number of ways that we can work together to ensure the sustainability of the Mississippi River.

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.

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