What States Drain Into The Mississippi River


The Mississippi River is one of the longest rivers in the United States, stretching more than 2,350 miles from its source at Lake Itasca in Minnesota through 10 of America’s states, before flowing into the Gulf of Mexico. Numerous other states contribute to the mighty Mississippi through a variety of tributaries, which eventually flow into it and drain their waters into this powerful river. In this article, we will discuss what states drain into the Mississippi River, how they contribute to the river’s mighty waters, and some of the potential implications of this.

Illinois and Wisconsin

Two states that contribute to the Mississippi River’s waters are Illinois and Wisconsin. The Illinois River contributes to the Mississippi River through the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, which was built in the late 1800s to provide a navigational route between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi. The 357 mile river empties into the Mississippi near Grafton, Illinois. In Wisconsin, the Chippewa River starts in Eau Claire County flows for about 190 miles before contributing to the Mississippi near Dubuque, Iowa.

Minnesota and Iowa

Minnesota is known as the birthplace of the Mississippi River, which starts from Lake Itasca. The Minnesota River is one of the largest tributaries, draining an extensive region in Minnesota’s western and southern regions. It empties into the Mississippi River at Mendota, Minnesota. In Iowa, the Des Moines River, which starts in Fort Dodge, joins the Mississippi just above Keokuk. It is the largest tributary contributing to the Mississippi in Iowa and is approximately 273 miles in length.


Missouri, the ‘Show Me State’, is also a major contributor to the Mississippi River. The Missouri River, the state’s primary river, joins the Mississippi at St. Louis, and is the longest tributary to the river. Starting in the Rocky Mountains, the Missouri travels 2,341 miles into the Mississippi at an average of 6 million cubic feet per second.

Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana

The Arkansas River originates in the Rocky Mountains, traversing through Colorado and Oklahoma before entering Arkansas, where it covers 1,469 miles and empties into the Mississippi River at Arkansas Post. The Tennessee River is another tributary of the Mississippi, flowing through Tennessee and Alabama. It covers approximately 652 miles before connecting with the Ohio River, which then empties into the Mississippi at Cairo, Illinois. Lastly, the Red River, located in Louisiana and Texas, begins near the Oklahoma-Texas border and covers 1,360 miles in its journey towards the Mississippi River. It empties near Simmesport, Louisiana, and is responsible for around 25% of all the sediment deposited in the Mississippi.

Environmental Impact

It is important to note the environmental impact of this phenomenon and how it affects the quality of the water flowing through the Mississippi River and into the Gulf of Mexico. Many of the tributaries of the Mississippi River are heavily contaminated with industrial pollutants and fertilizers, as well as agricultural and urban runoff. These pollutants can have a significant affect on the downstream areas, endangering aquatic life and impacting water quality. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been testing water quality of Mississippi tributaries since the 1970s and recent studies have revealed that there has been very little improvement in water quality in these rivers.

Human Use

The presence of these states draining their waters into the Mississippi River has also enabled its use by humans over the centuries. The river has been an important means of transportation, first for Native Americans, and then for European settlers, who used it to traverse the region. It has also proved useful in the development of many of the states that its waters serve, providing a source of fresh water and power through the use of hydroelectricity. The Mississippi is also a major source of recreation and tourism throughout the region where its tributaries extend.


In terms of agriculture, the Mississippi River is responsible for supplying water for both small and large farms throughout the region. The presence of tributaries can have a significant affect on the amount and availability of water for use in irrigation, with many farms relying on the river’s supply for their livelihood. The nutrient-rich water of many tributaries is important for sustainable agricultural practices and helps to support a wide variety of crops throughout the region.

Economic Implications

The presence of the tributaries that flow into the Mississippi River has a major economic impact on the states it serves. Its waters sustain numerous businesses, such as fishing and tourism, and its network of rivers has provided access to markets and aided in the transportation of goods. The abundance of resources and species, as well as its vast potential for power and recreation make the Mississippi an important economic driver in the region, and its tributaries are an integral part of this.

Conclusion of Use

Overall, the numerous states that contribute to the waters of the Mississippi River play an important role in both its environmental and economic health. Their waters supply its mighty force, help with transportation and industry, and contribute significantly to its immense recreational potential. The presence of these states also increases its use for agricultural purposes, making it a valuable resource for those in the region. In conclusion, it is evident that the states that drain into the Mississippi River are indispensable to its strength and beauty.

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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