What Is Special About Mississippi River

Mississippi River is one of the most influential and iconic rivers of North America, flowing across several states and countries, ultimately emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. Mississippi River is part of the nation’s longest river system, spanning from the Appalachian Mountains to the Rocky Mountains and from the Gulf of Mexico to the northernmost part of the continent. It is considered a hub for recreation, commerce and transportation for nearby towns and cities, being one of the most vital waterways in the region. Mississippi River is rich in cultural, ecological and economic importance, offering a unique experience for the travelers, who can explore its fascinating history and vibrant presence.

Location and Journey

The Mississippi River begins as a tiny stream known as Lake Itasca in Minnesota, before winding its way southward and eventually entering the Gulf of Mexico near Louisiana. On its way, the Mississippi River passes through 10 States and two Canadian provinces, meandering through 2168 miles of lush countryside and dynamic urban areas. While on its journey, the Mississippi River will cross the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas, as well as traverse through the states of Iowa, Kentucky, and Tennessee, finally merging with Louisiana. The Mississippi River is considered to be the 4th largest river system in the world in terms of total length and the 10th longest river in the world.

Environmental Value

The Mississippi River is known for its immense value to the natural environment and its contribution to the surrounding eco-system. The wetlands and aquatic habitats created by the Mississippi support a variety of species, from rare birds to beavers and more. The unique environment fostered by the Mississippi River allows for countless activities, from hiking and kayaking to fishing and swimming, that bring visitors from around the world. In addition, the Mississippi River is also a source of rich nutrients, serving as a home to numerous fish, birds, and other aquatic species.

The Mississippi River also serves an important economic role as a form of transportation, moving crops, commodities, and other goods. Its involvement in the international shipping industry helps to power the US economy, allowing for trading to take place both domestically and with all other countries. Tourism along the Mississippi is also an important contributor to local economies, as it helps to generate revenues for businesses, attractions, and accommodations.

Historical Significance

The Mississippi River has been a source of life and culture since the earliest indigenous peoples lived along its banks. It has been immortalized in countless works of art, literature, and film for centuries, with some of its most famous references coming from the story of Huckleberry Finn and its realistic portrayal of life along the Mississippi. The Mississippi River also holds deep religious significance for many Native American tribes, representing the very foundations of their spiritual beliefs.

In more recent times, the Mississippi River has been a crucial part of American society and the nation’s identity. It has served as an inhospitable barrier for escaping slaves in the middle of the 19th century and has served as a source of inspiration for generations of Americans. It is a place where individuals can come together, both culturally and spiritually, to celebrate the United States’ past, present, and future.

Navigation Challenges

Navigating the Mississippi River is no easy feat. The river is constantly shifting its course and can be dangerous when not approached with the utmost caution. The upper Mississippi is unregulated and highly unpredictable, with a natural series of obstacles such as rapids and eddies. During the spring months, it experiences sudden and dramatic fluctuations in water levels as snow melts and rain dumps into the river. There are also many artificial constructions and dams that must be tended to, such as levees and locks, to keep navigation flowing safely.

Stretching across the United States and into Canada, the Mississippi River is a complex transportation network, with both commercial and recreational vessels navigating its many twists and turns. River pilots and navigators must stay vigilant and familiar with the river’s flows and channels.

Harvesting Mississippi River Resources

The Mississippi River also provides many of the nation’s fish and shellfish resources, with the Gulf of Mexico’s estuaries serving as the watery launchpad for millions of migrating birds. The river is a major producer of crawfish, catfish, shrimp, and other seafood, providing the seafood industry with its main source of income in many areas. With over 100 species of freshwater fish commonly sighted in the Mississippi River, anglers can have the best time expanding their catch.

The woodlands and wetlands along the Mississippi River also provide food, shelter, and spawning grounds for a variety of animals. From beavers, mink, and muskrats to white-tailed deer, wild turkey, and bald eagles, the Mississippi offers a wide array of wildlife. Many parks, sanctuaries, and refuges have been established to protect these animals and their habitats, distinguishing the Mississippi as one of the United States’ most diverse wildlife managed areas.

Floods and Flood Protection

Flooding is an issue along the entire length of the Mississippi River and its tributaries. High waters can be incredibly powerful and dangerous, with the potential to cause great destruction to the lives of the people living in its path. Flood protection efforts have been implemented over the years using a variety of engineering techniques to regulate the flow of water and prevent damage to towns and cities. However, much more needs to be done to ameliorate flooding risks, with many of the flood prevention projects and infrastructure being inadequate.

The river itself has become the subject of many discussions, with climate change and the rising temperatures having serious implications for the Mississippi River and its future. Proposed solutions include improved training for emergency personnel, increased education regarding flood awareness, and improved planning and zoning in areas prone to flooding.

Adaptation and Evacuation

The unpredictable nature of the Mississippi can also mean that people have to evacuate quickly and with little warning. Emergency responders in these areas must be well trained and prepared for the worst, working in tandem with local communities, which is the most effective way to ensure the safety of citizens, who must also be vigilant in monitoring the river’s conditions.

Communities along the Mississippi have also relied on local groups and volunteers for their assistance during flood season, reinforcing a sense of togetherness and confidence in times of adversity. Evacuations can be particularly hard on children and the elderly, who often require special assistance to get through the process. Ultimately, evacuations and emergency measures rely on cooperation between government departments and agencies, and local businesses and citizens.


The Mississippi River is a powerful and dynamic river system, filled with life and culture, presenting an incredible source of natural beauty and economic importance. Despite its impressive size and scale, it is also subject to unpredictable storms, floods and extreme weather conditions, requiring vigilance and an effective evacuation plan during times of emergency. It is an important waterway for businesses, communities, and recreation, and will continue to be so for many more 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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