What Are The Two Ends Of The Mississippi River System

The Mississippi River System is one of the largest river networks in North America. Spanning from the edge of Montana to the Louisiana Delta, it is the primary drainage for 31 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. In its nearly 3,000 miles of winding waterways, the mighty Mississippi connects with many of its tributaries, providing vast commercial and recreational opportunities for those living and visiting along its base. The two ends of the mighty Mississippi River System are quite distinct from one another and identifying them requires a bit of geographical knowledge.

Headwaters and Lake Itasca

At its most northern reaches, the mighty Mississippi begins as a small waterway in northwestern Minnesota, created by runoff from Lake Itasca State Park. The park, located in Clearwater County, is a popular tourist destination known for its lakeside campgrounds, hiking trails, and winter activities. It is also the starting point of the Mississippi River. From Lake Itasca, the river flows over 450 miles in a generally southeastward direction until it reaches the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin. The confluence of the Mississippi, St. Croix, and Minnesota rivers marks the start of the Upper Mississippi River.

Mouth of the Mississippi River

At its southern end, the mighty Mississippi ends at the Gulf of Mexico, just south of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Referred to as the “Mouth of the Mississippi,” this area is home to a vast delta ecosystem that supports some of the most productive estuaries on the planet. Estuarine life is abundant here, from shrimp, oysters, and blue crabs to bottlenose dolphins, bald eagles, and Louisiana black bears.

Interconnected Ecosystems

Spanning over 2,300 miles, the Mississippi River System traverses many diverse ecosystems. From swamps and forests to agricultural lands and urban centers, the Mississippi’s lands and waters present a wide array of habitats for species to call home. Along the Lower Mississippi River alone, over 700 species of fish, birds, amphibians, and mammals have been documented.

Environmental Challenges

The mighty Mississippi has provided countless economic, cultural, and recreational benefits to those who dwell along its banks and those who depend on its waters. But the mighty Mississippi System has also faced significant environmental challenges. Human activities such as agriculture, urbanization, and pollution have taken their toll on the river and its surrounding environment. As the population continues to grow in the Mississippi Watershed, these problems are only expected to get worse.

Pollution from Industrial Sources

Industrial sources of pollution include wastewater and general runoff from cities, agricultural runoff, and industrial waste. This type of pollution has especially negative impacts on the health of aquatic life, often leading to devastating consequences. In addition, mercury, nitrogen, and phosphorus pollution have caused algae blooms in certain parts of the Mississippi System, leading to reduced visibility in certain areas and creating dead zones with virtually no aquatic life.

Impacts of Dams and Levees

Dams, diversions, and levees are a few of the man-made modifications that can be found along the Mississippi River System. They were originally built to protect against flooding and provide water supply, but they have also had a negative effect on the health of the river itself. These structures have cut off sediment supply and blocked the fish habitats needed for species to spawn. As a result, some populations of fish, such as the paddlefish, have seen drastic declines due to their inability to reach upstream spawning grounds.

Restoration and Conservation Efforts

To counter the effects of pollution and degradation, conservation and restoration efforts have been put into effect in the upper and lower sections of the Mississippi River System. Organizations such as the Nature Conservancy, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Mississippi River Commission are working to restore habitats, reduce water pollution, and protect endangered species. Although these efforts are difficult and slow, they are making a difference in improving the health of the Mississippi River System.

Human Interaction

The influence of humans on the mighty Mississippi is undeniable. From the agricultural, industrial, and urban runoff that contributes to the degradation of the waterway to conservation and restoration efforts that seek to protect it, the opinions of people all over the world are affecting the health of the mighty Mississippi. These interactions with the Mississippi River System will shape the future of this iconic waterway for many years to come.

Preventative Measures

In order to protect the mighty Mississippi from further degradation and environmental damage, it is important for us to take proactive steps to reduce pollution and conserve water. When it comes to fertilizer use, farmers and land managers should be sure to follow proper application methods and install drainage systems to reduce runoff. Additionally,local communities can help ensure that the river system’s water quality remains high by properly disposing of waste and protecting their watersheds.

Economic Benefits

The Mississippi River System provides a number of economic benefits, from enabling commercial navigation and shipping to providing transportation opportunities such as water taxis and cruise boats. In addition, the Mississippi River System creates more than 160,000 jobs in the United States. This river network also supports recreational activities and attracts tourists from around the world.


The Mississippi River System is one of the largest and most important water networks in the United States, connecting 31 states and two Canadian provinces. It is the source of great economic and recreational benefits, but it also faces a number of environmental threats. By taking proactive steps and following a few simple best practices, we can ensure that it remains healthy and intact for many years 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.

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