How Long To Float The Mississippi River

Floating down the Mississippi River is one of American’s essential experiences and is certainly worth the effort. Although it may not always be easy, it can be enjoyed by anyone. To successfully and safely float a major section of the Mississippi, it is important to be knowledgeable in the planning and preparation of the trip.

Floating the Mississippi River is no light undertaking. The 1,200 mile journey is the longest river in the United States and, depending on the starting point chosen, could take anywhere from two weeks to up to four months to complete.When planning this type of trip, it is important to factor in the amount of time, supplies and money that one should allow for the journey.

As with any travel, the amount of time necessary is determined beforehand. It should be noted that the Mississippi, like other rivers, flows at varying speeds. Those faster flows will allow for more efficient journey times. It is also important to note that the speed of the Mississippi is faster than those of the Missouri and Illinois Rivers so it can be navigated in less time. The total amount of time required to float from one section of the river to another will depend on factors such as the time of year, the speed of the water, and other considerations.

In addition to the amount of time factor, another vital aspect of the float is the equipment and supplies needed. Every vessel should carry safety supplies such as a communication device like a cell phone, GPS, a life jacket and a first aid kit. It is also important to carry the right type of food and enough fuel and water to last the entire journey.

So, while a Mississippi River float can be enjoyed by almost anyone a bit of knowledge and planning is necessary. Experienced boaters have seen everything on the river so it is best to be prepared for any potential circumstances. Going into the trip with a journal or camera and with the necessary supplies can help to make an already unique experience even more enjoyable.

Water Depths and Conditions

The Mississippi River has several different key depths that one must consider when planning a float. According to the Mississippi River Commission, the river has a pool stage, which is a controlled range of depths that can vary from several inches to several feet in different parts of the river. In addition, the current can be anywhere between a miller per second to seven meter per second. It is important to factor these depths and currents into the plan when navigating the river.

When floating the Mississippi, the river’s conditions can also play a major factor. During the winter months when the pool levels are low, there are more exposed rocks, logs and debris, which can make navigation more difficult.On the other hand, during the warmer months the conditions are much more optimal for navigation as the water levels are higher and the current is less unpredictable. The warmer months can be an ideal period to navigate the Mississippi due to the more tolerable weather and navigation conditions.

River Access Points

An important part of any Mississippi River float is the designated access points. Access points are the points in the river where one can enter and exit the river. These spots are typically located near cities and towns that border the river.

It is important to take into account the terrain, weather and other factors when selecting an access point. Generally, the access points closer to the source stream are easier to navigate because the terrain is better, there are fewer obstacles in the water and the velocity of the river is much lower.

The spots closer to the mouth of the river, on the other hand, tend to be much more difficult to navigate. For instance, the current is much faster, there are more logs, rocks, and potential dangers present and the water is much deeper. Focusing on areas closer to the source stream can allow for a more pleasant and enjoyable float.

Safety Measures

When floating down the Mississippi River, safety is a major concern. The river is unpredictable and can be dangerous. That is why is it so important to ensure all passengers familiarize themselves with the environment and any potential risks.

It is usually a good idea to inform family and friends of the float plan and to check in with a destination coordinator. In addition, having knowledge of the river’s conditions and paying attention the varying depths are all necessary precautionary steps.

When it comes to the vessel itself, it is important to have a well-sealed craft with all necessary supplies. Boats should never be overloaded as this can lead to more danger and can potentially sink the boat, resulting in emergency personnel having to rescue all of the passengers.

In conclusion, floating the Mississippi River is an experience that anyone can enjoy and appreciate. With a bit of knowledge, research and planning, one can float down the Mississippi River safely and successfully.

Weather and Climate

When planning a Mississippi River float, the weather is an especially important factor to consider. The best months to float the river are from April to June when the temperatures are typically milder with limited precipitation. During this period, the water levels are higher and the river is much less risky to navigate.

However, in the months of July and August, summers can be quite hot and humid. In this period the river is usually much muddier due to increased precipitation and the river has a higher volume. Thus, the river can be more difficult to navigate and dangerous undertows can present a greater risk when the water is higher.

On the other hand, when the winter months arrive the temperature can drop to colder levels. This season can also bring with it more debris in the river, as well as low levels of water. Boating during this time can become risky and should be navigated with caution.

River Wildlife

Another consideration when planning a Mississippi River float is its wildlife. There are several different species that one may see during the journey. According to the Mississippi Wildlife and Fisheries, animals such as river otters, beavers, mink, white-tailed deer and even bald eagles can be seen. In some areas, even cougars, black bears, and wild turkeys have been seen.

Having knowledge of the local species is beneficial in understanding and appreciating the ecosystem and its role in the journey. The river also provides habitats for numerous freshwater species that can be enjoyed by all. It is also important to take steps to protect the environment and avoid interacting with the wildlife.

Unique Sights

In addition to the wildlife, Mississippi River float trips feature an array of different sights and attractions. According to Visit Mississippi, the river offers unique sightseeing opportunities such as castles and forts, ghost towns, fishing villages, casinos and Gulf Coast beaches.

In certain parts of the river, one can explore the country’s oldest continuous settlement sites, Natchez and Vicksburg. Other sightseeing opportunities include taking a tour of a Civil War-era battleship, an off-road safari, and exploring the expansive Tunica Hills.

Finally, the journey can be enjoyed in many different ways. From motorboating, kayaking, and canoeing to rafting and even swimming, the journey can be a life-changing experience.

Riverboat Cruises

As an alternative to a Mississippi River float, a riverboat cruise is a popular way to take in the views and experience the journey. Riverboat cruises provide a safe, comfortable, and luxurious experience that can be enjoyed by all.

According to Trip Savvy, riverboat cruises typically use a combination of leisurely sightseeing and excursions such as onshore and offshore activities. This type of experience typically includes activities such as live music and entertainment, historic tours and lectures, and much more. River cruise operators also offer multi-day packages and passengers can choose from options such as luxury cabins, all-inclusive dining, and a wide array of onboard amenities.

Riverboat cruises are a great way to vacation, as they provide an exciting way to explore the Mississippi and its culture. With great sightseeing opportunities and knowledgeable tour guides, one can discover the culture, history, and beauty of the river.


When floating down the Mississippi River, there are also several different types of accommodations to consider. According to Trip Savvy, private, commercial and resort lodgings are all options.

Among private accommodations, houseboats are quite popular and provide a great deal of comfort and convenience. They are equipped with beds, showers, cooking equipment and more. On the other hand, commercial venues tend to be more isolated and offer more basic amenities such as beds and refrigerators.

Finally, resort lodgings are the most luxurious options, providing private swimming pools and hot tubs, spa services and much more. Travelers can opt for an all-inclusive experience or choose a package that includes only the river experience.

Regardless of the type of accommodation one chooses, the Mississippi River can be a great experience for all types of travelers. From the wildlife to the unique sights, floating the Mississippi River is sure to be a journey that everyone will remember.

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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