Where Are The Mississippi River Located

The History of the Mississippi River

The Mississippi River is one of the most famous waterways in North America, renowned for its immense size, rich history, vibrant culture, and valuable natural resources. The river has been inhabited for thousands of years by numerous diverse peoples and groups ranging from Native American tribes to colonial European traders to the current economic giants of the U.S. and Canada. While the exact origin of the Mississippi is contested by historians, the waters have long been an integral part of life in the American South and Midwest.

The Mississippi has long taken on significant symbolism, was an important transportation hub for many early American civilizations, and has been an important source of sustenance and economic power. The river also played key roles in several major wars including the American Civil War and the War of 1812. The waterway is even hinted at in classic works of literature such as Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

The Mississippi River begins at Lake Itasca in the state of Minnesota and stretches for more than 2,300 miles southwards, through 10 states and into the Gulf of Mexico. Along its banks and tributary rivers, some of the largest and most populous cities in the United States have developed and grown including Minneapolis, St. Louis, Memphis, and New Orleans. The river itself wide and imposing, flows through rural areas and natural habitats, maintaining an important connection between cities while providing places for recreational activities.

The Mississippi River watershed is huge and covers more than 40% of the total United States landmass and serves as home for more than 18 million people. The contiguous drainage basin is where more than two-thirds of the US population live. People who live within the Mississippi River’s watersheds, called riparian communities, depend on the river for drinking, irrigation, manufacturing, and transportation, among many other uses.

As the Mississippi flows from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, it passes several natural and man-made flood control systems including reservoirs and dams. The current of the river is also influenced by the effects of human activity on it. One major effect is pollution, and while the majority of issues are instigated by inefficient and/or irresponsible agricultural practices, certain industrial activities also contribute to higher rates of contamination.

The Mississippi River and Wildlife

Despite the damaging effects of pollution and the economic value of the Mississippi, the river remains an important source of sustenance and life for many species. Hundreds of species of fish, mammals, and birds rely on the river and its waters for their existence. Many have made it their permanent home, finding shelter in the wetlands, woodlands, and other riparian ecosystems that line it banks. Mammals such as beaver, muskrat, and river otter inhabit the area, as do birds such as the bald eagle and the great blue heron.

The Mississippi is an important destination for migratory birds, and its waters are teeming with freshwater species. Its outlet into the Gulf is the spawning ground for several commercial species, making it one of the most productive fishing areas in the country. The immense size and flow of the Mississippi also make it a haven for several mammals and birds that are threatened or endangered in other parts of the country.

The river also serves as important habitat for many species of plants and animals, providing food, shelter and other resources. Logging, farming, and agricultural activities have all had a negative impact on the wildlife habitat of the Mississippi River, but conservation efforts have been able to mitigate the damage caused to some degree.

In addition to its biological importance, the Mississippi River is also an important source of inspiration and reflection for many artists and musicians. Numerous popular musicians have made the legendary river their muse, writing lyrics, performing, and singing about its beauty and history. Painters and photographers have also had the Mississippi as their primary subject matter.

Environmental Impact of the Mississippi River

Despite its importance, the Mississippi River has become increasingly threatened in recent years due to human activity. Pollution from agricultural runoff, industrial waste, sewage runoff, and other sources is one of the primary contributors to water pollution in the river. The water quality of the river is so degraded that there are large areas were fish and other wildlife are prohibited from swimming or fishing due to contamination.

In addition, the construction of dams and levees has caused problems for the Mississippi River as well. These structures, while immensely important to flood control, have drastically altered the river’s natural flow, resulting in changes in sedimentation, aquatic species diversity, and habitats.

The Mississippi River is also home to many invasive species, which have been difficult to control and manage due to their successful adaptation to the river environment. These species have been the cause of numerous problems, including the displacement of native species populations, the disruption of micro-ecosystems, and the introduction of new pathogens into the area.

In an effort to protect the river and its ecosystem, numerous conservation organizations have been established. These groups are working towards restoring the river’s wetlands, restoring native species, combating pollution, and raising awareness about the importance of the Mississippi River.

Management of the Mississippi River

In order to effectively manage the Mississippi River, the US Army Corps of Engineers has created the Mississippi River Commission. The Commission is charged with the responsibility of ensuring the river is properly maintained and managed. They are responsible for developing plans to protect the river and its resources and create new strategies to maximize its economic and ecological potential.

The Commission has also advocated for several conservation measures, including the implementation of eco-friendly farming techniques, the adoption of sustainable fishing practices, and the establishment of wildlife sanctuaries. The Commission has also taken steps to reduce urban runoff, prevent soil erosion, and enforce limits on the number of boats allowed in the river.

The Commission is also tasked with creating policies that will protect the river from further contamination. This includes restricting polluting industrial and agricultural activities, developing pollution reduction plans, and implementing strict regulations on land use and development along the river.

The Mississippi River is vital to the economy and environment of the United States, and the Mississippi River Commission and other conservation organizations are taking steps to ensure it remains healthy and productive.

Economic Importance of the Mississippi River

In addition to its biological and environmental importance, the Mississippi River is extremely important to the economy of the United States. The river serves as an important transportation hub, allowing goods and services to flow freely between inland cities and coastal states. In fact, nearly 30 percent of all the nation’s cargo is shipped via the Mississippi River.

The river is also an important source of energy, providing hydropower for several states along the river and its tributaries. There are numerous dams and hydropower projects along the Mississippi, which generate billions of kilowatt hours every year.

The Mississippi also provides a number of recreational opportunities, from fishing and boating to camping and canoeing. The US Fish and Wildlife Service estimates there are more than 12 million recreational users of the river every year, contributing more than $6 billion each year into local and regional economies.

The river is also an important source of water for irrigation, drinking, and industrial use. Water from the river is used by millions of people throughout the United States, providing an important source of sustenance and economic stability.

The Mississippi River is a valuable resource to the people of the United States and is essential to many industries and recreational activities. However, it is up to the citizens and agencies of the United States to ensure that the river is properly managed in order to protect its health and ensure its continued productivity over the centuries.


The Mississippi River is an important part of the United States and its economy. It has been used for centuries for transport, sustenance, recreation, and more. As human activity has increased, however, so has the need for careful management of the Mississippi in order to protect it from further damage and degradation. Conservation organizations, such as the Mississippi River Commission, have taken steps to protect the river and its resources, but more work needs to be done in order to ensure its future health and productivity.

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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