What State Does The Mississippi River Start And End

The Mississippi River, one of the longest and most iconic rivers in America, flows 2,340 miles from its source in Minnesota to a delta in the Gulf of Mexico near New Orleans. This vital feature of the USA has provided for people and wildlife for hundreds of years, and is host to an incredible array of birds, fish, and other wildlife, many of which are found only in this unique ecosystem.

The Mississippi River begins in Lake Itasca, Minnesota, and is joined by a number of tributaries as it moves south and east. During the course of its journey, the river passes through or borders fifteen U.S. states, eventually reaching its end in the Gulf of Mexico. Both the beginning and end of the river are important points in terms of human infrastructure and environmental health.

The Minnesota portion of the Mississippi River is designated as a National Wild and Scenic River. It is also a popular recreational destination, as its waterways provide clean, clear, and safe swimming and canoeing areas. In addition, the banks of this portion of the river provide excellent fishing opportunities and are popular with bird watchers, who travel from all over the world to witness the wide variety of birds which make this area their home.

Further along its journey, the river forms the border between Illinois and Missouri. Here it meets part of the Mississippi Delta — an area of incredibly rich and intricate wetlands. Many species of plant and wildlife are found in abundance in the Mississippi Delta, and have provided people with rich resources for centuries. This area was designated a Ramsar Wetland of International significance in 1988.

As the Mississippi nears its end, it divides again into three main branches at the so-called Bird’s Foot Delta, near the mouth of the river. This area is significant in terms of biodiversity and is particularly important for bird populations. The delta provides an important habitat for aquatic life, and the wetlands provide essential feeding and breeding grounds for wading birds.

Finally, the riverflows into the Gulf of Mexico, this is also a vital ecosystem. The Mississippi River carries an immense amount of sediment that are dropped near its mouth when the river meets the salt water of the Gulf. This sediment provides a source of nutrients for numerous species, which helps support a vibrant food chain in the Gulf.

Impact on Human Population

As the Mississippi River has provided a home to a large array of wildlife and plant species, it has also been used by people for centuries. During the Industrial Revolution, it became the main transportation route for many of the products that were produced in the Midwest. It has also been known to provide drinking water and irrigation to the Midwestern United States. Many cities are located along its banks, and these cities depend on the river for economic and cultural activities.

The river has also experienced significant human activity in the form of dams, levees, and other construction projects. Unfortunately, these activities have had a negative impact on the river’s health. Over time, the sediment load has been reduced and the water quality has decreased due to various pollutants.

In the past decade, there has been an increasing effort to re-establish a healthy ecological balance in the river. Groups like the Mississippi River Conservancy and The Nature Conservancy have worked to improve the water quality and improve fisheries and wildlife populations. There have also been efforts to restore natural land-and-river landscapes in order to support the diverse cultures and how they rely on the river.

Environmental Concerns

One of the biggest threats to the health of the Mississippi River is the annual flooding. Heavy rains and snowmelt can cause the river to crest its banks, resulting in river bottom erosion, high erosion rates, and water quality issues. In addition to this, the presence of industrial and agricultural runoff in the river can also have a negative effect on the water’s quality, and many of the rivers tributaries are regulated by dams.

In recent years, the number of invasive species (such as the Asian Carp) has also increased significantly, posing a risk to native species in the river, as well as the surrounding ecosystems. This has been especially problematic for the Delta region, as the river’s fluctuations can lead to changes in water levels and often leads to drastic changes in the makeup of the ecosystem.

Unfortunately, climate change has also introduced a particularly dangerous challenge to the Mississippi river. Ice, melting snow and excessive rainfall can cause dangerous flooding, while high temperatures can create heatwaves that can cause fish and other aquatic species to die-off. Additionally, warmer temperatures can affect the timing of when rivers reach their peak flows.

Natural Conservation

In light of the environmental challenges facing the Mississippi river, many states, non-governmental organizations, and private companies have come together to promote conservation efforts. There are numerous organizations that are dedicated to the preservation of the river and its tributaries, with a focus on restoring and protecting its health and vitality.

The Mississippi River Alliance, a non-profit corporation, is one such organization. Through their initiatives, they are able to engage communities and local governments to better understand the value of natural conservation and to take action in preserving the river’s resources. Projects include mapping the river and tributaries, as well as raising awareness of environmental issues, such as water pollution. In addition, the Alliance works with other organizations, such as The Nature Conservancy, to develop long-term solutions such as wetland and riverbank restoration.

Other organizations, such as the Upper Mississippi River Conservation Committee, are also involved in conservation efforts. This group works to identify areas at-risk from man-made development and to take steps to encourage environmentally-friendly solutions. Their efforts have helped to protect wetlands, support a variety of habitats, and promote public access to the river’s recreational areas.

Environmental Education

Environmental education is an important part of promoting a healthy Mississippi river. Education can help people understand the importance of the river, how to best use and care for it, and how to minimize the impact of human activities. There are a number of organizations and initiatives that are focused on promoting environmental education.

The Mississippi River Network, a national non-profit organization, is dedicated to the protection and restoration of the nation’s rivers, including the Mississippi. As part of their mission, they provide education programs to both adult and children audiences, focusing on topics such as water quality, habitat restoration, sustainable practices, and responsible river recreation.

The Mississippi River Education Program, run by the National Park Service, is another important initiative that gives visitors an opportunity to learn more about the river’s processes and ecological components. Their programs provide vital information about the biology and ecology of the river, as well as about the various threats it faces. The goal is to inspire people to get involved in conservation efforts and to promote responsible recreation.

Implementation of Policies and Regulations

In order to protect the Mississippi River from further degradation, numerous policies and regulations have been implemented in recent years. Federal laws, such as the Clean Water Act, have sought to reduce the amount of pollutants entering the river and its tributaries. Additionally, to ensure responsible recreational activities, many states have introduced restrictions on the types of activities that can take place in or near the river.

Organizations such as the National Audubon Society have also worked to protect the Mississippi river by campaigning for strict conservation regulations in the areas surrounding the river. These efforts have helped to protect the river’s fragile ecosystems and encouraged an increase in the number of protected areas, as well as restrictions on activities such as hunting and fishing.

Furthermore, in an effort to protect the unique delta areas, the government agencies have implemented water management policies to ensure that the river’s flow is managed carefully. These policies involve a close monitoring of the river’s water levels and aim to limit the amount of water entering the delta during certain times of the year.


The Mississippi River is an integral part of the USA and has been a source of both economic and cultural significance for centuries. In recent years, however, it has experienced an increase in pressure due to various human activities. Conservation efforts and regulations are vital for protecting the river’s ecosystems and resources, and it is important that the public is provided with the necessary education and awareness.

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