Is The Missouri River Part Of The Mississippi River

Background Information

The Missouri River is the longest river in North America, stretching a whopping 2,341 miles, while the Mississippi River is the second-longest river, stretching 2,202 miles. The Missouri is undammed and is much wider and more powerful than the Mississippi. Both of these rivers originate in the Rocky Mountains of the United States and flow southwards, connecting multiple states together and eventually flowing into the Gulf of Mexico.

Origin of the Rivers

The Missouri River is generally acknowledged to start at the confluence of the Madison, Jefferson and Gallatin rivers, which all converge in the state of Montana in the Out West of the USA. From there, the Missouri River goes on to form the border of five states before culminating in its meeting with the Mississippi River at Saint Louis. Meanwhile, the Mississippi River originates from Lake Itasca in Minnesota, where it travels south across the plains, gathering the waters from many other tributaries.

Similarities Between the Rivers

Although one river is longer than the other, the Missouri River and Mississippi River share a great many similarities. They both serve as major transportation routes for boats along their lengths, as well as a source of income for many farmers in the states they flow through. In the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, where the two rivers merge, they create a natural border and trade route, linking together different states and cities. In addition, they both provide important habitats to a vast number of plant and animal species.

Differences Between the Rivers

Despite their similarities, the Missouri River and Mississippi River differ in some key ways. The Missouri River is fed from the waters of its many tributaries, which are the rivers and streams that flow into the main river. The tributaries of the Missouri River cover a wide variety of climates, ranging from the snowy mountains of Montana to the vast plains of Nebraska. Additionally, the Missouri River possesses more power and speed than the Mississippi River due to its undammed nature.

The Missouri River and the Mississippi River Interacting Together

In the heart of the United States, the Missouri River and the Mississippi River interact together through the twin cities of Bethlehem and St. Louis in the Midwest. It is here that the two rivers meet and create a boundary between the states of Louisiana and Missouri. The merging of these two rivers then results in a much larger and powerful body of water, compared to just the Missouri or Mississippi River alone. Consequently, Saint Louis is one of the most heavily used ports for ships along the entire Mississippi-Missouri River system.

Is the Missouri River Part of the Mississippi River?

So, is the Missouri River part of the Mississippi River? The answer is yes. The Missouri River is a major tributary of the Mississippi River, meaning that its waters eventually join the Mississippi River in Saint Louis. In a sense, the Missouri River is like a branch of the Mississippi River as its waters become part of the Mississippi River, creating an even larger and more powerful body of water. While they do have distinct beginnings and identities, when they converge in Saint Louis they both form a part of a much larger river system.

Impact of the Rivers

When it comes to the Missouri River and the Mississippi River, their combined influence has been incredibly important to the growth and development of the United States. Since the early explorers of the Midwest and the Great Plains, the two rivers have been seen as a gateway for settlers looking to explore and establish trade. The navigability of these rivers further enabled the growth and prosperity of these settlements and allowed them to expand into the great nation we know today.

Environmental Impact of the Rivers

For millennia, the Missouri River and the Mississippi River have played an integral role in the health and longevity of animals, plants and humans. Nowadays, however, we are starting to better understand the ecological impact these huge bodies of water have on the environment. For example, the combined effects of pollution, runoff, and overfishing are becoming a greater issue. As such, there are numerous conservation efforts underway to help keep these two rivers clean and safe for all living creatures.

Economical Impact of the Rivers

The Missouri River and the Mississippi River have long been a major source of income and resources for the cities, towns and settlements along their banks. During the 19th century, riverboats were a major form of transportation on these rivers, linking distant cities together and allowing passengers to explore and trade on a large scale. Additionally, fish and other wildlife from the rivers have become a significant part of many local economies.

Religious Impact of the Rivers

Throughout history, the Missouri River and Mississippi River have played a spiritual role for many of the native peoples in the area. For some, the rivers represent a connection to their ancestors and are seen as sacred places for prayer and reflection. Recently, many religious ceremonies have been held near the banks of the two rivers and many tribes in the area have taken steps to protect the rivers from further harm.

Recreational Impact of the Rivers

Today, the Missouri River and Mississippi River are used by both locals and tourists for leisure activities such as fishing and boating. Many people choose to spend their weekends and holidays along these rivers, taking advantage of their calming atmosphere and magnificent landscapes. In addition, the two rivers are popular tourist destinations and offer countless activities such as swimming, kayaking and camping.

Infrastructure Impact of the Rivers

Over the years, the Missouri River and Mississippi River have also played an important role in the construction of bridges and dams. For instance, dams such as the Dardanelle Dam, located on the Arkansas River, provide a steady source of electricity for local communities. Furthermore, many bridges have been built across these rivers in order to improve access between different parts of the country. The construction of these bridges has made it much easier to transport goods, services and people from one part of the country to the other.


There is no denying the importance of the Missouri River and the Mississippi River. These two rivers have shaped the history, economy, culture and environment of the United States for centuries. In addition, the two rivers have long been used for transportation, fishing and other recreational activities. Although the two rivers have their separate identities, together they form part of a much larger river system, providing a vital role in many aspects of American life.

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