What Countries Does The Mississippi River Flow Through

The Mississippi River is a symbol of a nation’s hope, a powerful source of wealth and a rich part of our history. Spanning 2,320 miles through the heart of the United States, the river connects six states (Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri) and two Canadian provinces – British Columbia and Ontario – as it winds its way to the Gulf of Mexico. Since before the time of the first European settlers, the river has been used as a trade and transportation route, providing essential sustenance and access to resources for the people who call it home.

The river plays an important role in providing drinking water, irrigation, navigation, recreation and more. In addition to the six states and two Canadian provinces it touches, the Mississippi River Basin covers an additional 31 states, comprising 41% of the US land area. It is estimated that over 140 million people in the US alone rely on it for water, food, electricity and livelihoods.

Given the importance of the Mississippi River, it is critical that its aquatic and terrestrial habitats are monitored and managed. In recent years, advances in science and technology have enabled the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the US Geological Survey (USGS) to better understand the river’s ecology and the needs of its human, faunal and floral populations. Data from studies conducted by these agencies shows that, in addition to its significance to the six states, two Canadian provinces and 31 other states, the Mississippi River provides habitat to over 600 fish species, over 200 mussel species and more than 300 migratory bird species.

The river is also home to some of the world’s most iconic wildlife species, such as the bald eagle, whooping crane and American alligator. Add to that the diverse cultures and societies that thrive alongside the river, and it’s clear to see why keeping it clean is so important. To that end, the Mississippi River-Gulf of Mexico Watershed has seen a number of conservation efforts, including the Mississippi River Conservation Area Program, which was created to protect and restore the river’s ecosystems.

Conservationists believe that education and communication are key to protecting and restoring the Mississippi River. Programs such as River Network, Mississippi River Network and the Mississippi Valley Conservancy help to spread the word about the importance of protecting the river and its inhabitants. By uniting academics, businesses, NGOs and conservationists, these initiatives promote the use of best practices and new technologies to ensure that the river remains healthy and vibrant.

The effects of our actions – or lack thereof – on the Mississippi River will have an impact on our communities, our nations and the global environment. It is up to us to use our resources and collective knowledge to ensure that the river remains a source of life, hope and joy for the generations to come.

Climate Impacts

The Mississippi River is being impacted now more than ever due to climate change. Recent temperature increases have resulted in warmer river waters, which can lead to a host of impacts on the aquatic species in the Mississippi River Basin. As temperatures warm and water levels rise, invasive species such as Asian carp, zebra mussels and quagga mussels can move in, resulting in changes in the river’s food webs, eutrophication and damaged ecosystems. Higher water levels, combined with wetter seasons, can also cause flooding and erosion, which can increase the risk of water-borne diseases and negatively impact transportation, agriculture and other human activities.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is taking steps to combat the effects of climate change by installing fish ladders and implementing technology such as acoustic telemetry to monitor migration patterns. They are also working with federal and state agencies to restore wetland and floodplain habitats, which provide vital spawning and rearing habitats for native fish species.

Trade, Travel and Tourism

The Mississippi River is host to a wide variety of ships, from barges and cruise ships to fishing vessels and tourist boats. To ensure that the river remains a safe and healthy navigation route, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers monitor the channel and maintain the locks and other structures needed for navigation. In addition to creating economic opportunities for industry, the river also provides recreational opportunities for residents and tourists alike, including fishing, boating, camping, canoeing and sightseeing.

Since the 1950s, the Mississippi River has become a tourist attraction, drawing visitors from all over the world. Tourists come to experience the river’s natural beauty, observe its wildlife, explore its history or take part in some of the many recreational activities available. To help ensure that these visitors have a safe and pleasant experience on the river, the National Park Service (NPS) and the US Army Corps of Engineers monitor activities on the river, as well as provide educational materials and recreational opportunities.

Environmental Stewardship

The preservation of the Mississippi River represents more than just an environmental issue. It’s also a human issue, as the river’s health is inextricably linked to the health of human communities in the region. To that end, a number of organizations ranging from government agencies to non-profits and community-based groups are working together to protect the river and its inhabitants. These groups are pursuing projects that address water quality, habitat preservation, waterway access and more.

The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is working with farmers and landowners in the Mississippi River Basin to implement conservation practices that protect water quality and help reduce sediment and nutrient runoff from agricultural fields. The agency is also working with local communities to help restore floodplains, wetlands and native habitats.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is also working to protect the river and its watershed and promote sustainability through programs such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Initiative and the Clean Water Act. The EPA also provides financial assistance to local, state and federal governments and partners to help protect the river and its inhabitants.


The Mississippi River is a vital part of the United States’ history, culture, economy and environment. Its connective pathways span more than 2,000 miles, through six states, two Canadian provinces, and 31 interstates, providing essential sustenance and resources to the many people and species who call it home. From climate effects to environmental stewardship, the preservation of the river and its inhabitants is of the utmost importance, and will require a collective, collaborative effort to ensure healthier, more vibrant communities.

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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