Is Alabama West Of The Mississippi River

With the start of a new year, the natural question of whether Alabama is west of the Mississippi River has been on many minds. The long-standing debate of what states are west of the Mississippi is often disputed, and the answer depends on where one is looking for confirmation. Those who live close to Alabama may feel certain Alabama is west of the Mississippi, while others may not be convinced.

Geographically, Alabama is considered to be located in the “Deep South” of the United States. It is often used as an example of one of the states that is east of the Mississippi. Technically, that answer is profoundly true. Most of the state is found east of the Mississippi River, although a very small portion of the northeastern part of the state extends into the “West” side of the Mississippi.

Alabama is situated in the southeastern part of the United States, spanning both sides of the Mississippi River. It has rich and diverse topography, and is often used to illustrate the boundaries of the “West” in geography classes. While most of the state lies east of the river, a small portion borders the river, on the “West” side of it.

The “West Bank” of the Mississippi, as it is called, is an area located between the eastern and western sides of the river. This area consists of two states going from east to west, Mississippi and Louisiana. Even though the eastern boundaries of these states are on opposite sides of the river, the western sections are on the same side.

The locals of Alabama will occasionally claim that their state is in the “West” since the eastern portion is located just beyond the river on the West Bank. Others may define the term “West of the Mississippi” more narrowly, meaning that the states must be fully located on the western side of the river. To state things simply, a majority of Alabama’s counties and cities are in the east of the river, but the state borders the Mississippi on its “West Bank”, making a small part of it capable of being defined as Western.

In the minds of many, the “West of the Mississippi” argument holds more symbolic meaning than geographic truth. While there is no denying the fact that the majority of Alabama lies on the East Bank, it cannot be ignored that the eastern boundary of the state straddles the river, thus giving it some association with the western side of the river. This can often be enough to make people consider the state to be a part of the “West.”

No matter the personal conviction of a person, the geographical reality of Alabama being east of the Mississippi River cannot be disputed. Except for a small corner of the state located on the “West Bank”, all of the rest of the state is on the east side of the river.

Geography and State Borders

From a geographical point of view, the states that are located directly “West of the Mississippi” are Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, and Alabama is not included in that list. All of these states are located on the western side of the river, with the majority of their counties and cities located on that side of the river.

Similar to Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi have small parts extending into the western side of the Mississippi River. On the other hand, Louisiana is located wholly on the western side of the river and does not brush against the eastern side in any way. What sets Alabama and the other states apart from each other is how much of their area is on the “West Bank”, and what the region looks like in regards to topography.

While the east and western banks have their unique features, Alabama’s terrain is flatter compared to the hills and mountains of the other states. On top of that, most of Alabama’s population is concentrated in the eastern part – the side that lies across the Mississippi. Thus, when it comes to the state being considered ‘west’ of the river, the factors used to decide come down to terrain, population, and land mass.

Drawback and Limitations of Existing Definitions

When drawing a literal line of demarcation for what “West” is, some of the definitions fall short. The majority of the populations in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas live on the eastern side of the Mississippi River. Even though this means that a majority of these states is still located in the “West” region, the vast majority of the people from these states would be considered “East” of the Mississippi.

Another example of this discrepancy between geography and the popular definition of “West” is found in Alabama. Even though the majority of the state is east of the river, its eastern boundary stretches across the Mississippi, giving it some connection with the “West” region. However, according to the literal definition, most of Alabama falls on the east side of the Mississippi and is thus considered “East” of the river.

A New Definition of West?

Most definitions of “West of the Mississippi” look at the literal position of states, rather than the feelings of the people who live within those states. Given that the east and west have differing social and cultural guidelines, it could be argued that the term should shift to incorporate the sentiments of rural, small-town people who identify with the “West” though, technically, they are east of the Mississippi.

When applying a hearts-and-minds approach, by considering the social and psychological element of where a person stands and their self-identification, rather than relying on traditional geographical grids, one can start to define “West” in a much more nuanced way. While this is not a perfect solution, and the two definitions will still exist, the boundaries between “East” and “West” of the Mississippi do become a bit less clear.


In conclusion, the majority of Alabama is east of the Mississippi River, but it has a northeastern corner that stretches into the “West Bank”, making a small portion of it part of the “West”. From a geographical angle, Alabama is considered to be east of the Mississippi, but from a broader, cultural point of view, the state has been seen to lean more towards the “West” by many.

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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