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Fun Facts About the Mississippi River

Written by Serene Joshua, contributing writer

The Mississippi River is the second longest river in the continent of North America, after the Missouri river.

By I Kid You Not , in Facts to Know , at May 14, 2023 Tags: ,

Written by Serene Joshua, contributing writer

The Mississippi is a very long river and holds great importance.

We’ll look at lots of facts about the Mississipi river today.

If you have ever had these questions – how long is the Mississippi river, or where does the Mississippi river start and end, or any other facts, this is the place to get all the information and the best Mississippi river facts for kids!

Read on to know more fun facts about the Mississippi!

Quick introduction to the Mississippi River

The Mississippi River is the second longest river in the continent of North America, after the Missouri river.

Although it is a pretty long river, it lies entirely within the United States of America and does not flow out to any other country.

If you were to look at a map of the USA you will see that the river flows south, all the way from Minnesota in the north of the country to the Gulf of Mexico in the south of the USA. 

Since this river runs from north to south USA, it is a beloved and cultural part of the country’s history. In fact, one very popular author, Mark Twain wrote a book centering around the river called “ Life On The Mississippi”.

Why is the Mississippi River important?

The Mississippi river is one of the world’s major, and biggest, river systems.

It is home to a biodiverse species of plants and animals.

It also acts as a major source of transport for migrating birds and animals as well as humans. 

It is also one of the biggest waterways for commercial transport, which means that every year thousands of boats that carry goods travel through the Mississippi channel to transport and deliver goods to many ports in America.

And here’s a fact about the Mississippi river you may not have known – 60% of all grain exported from the United States is transported via this river!

Sounds pretty interesting right?

Read on for more fun facts about the Mississippi River!

A quick look at the Mississippi river

  • The Mississippi River is the second longest river in the continent of North America, after the Missouri river
  • The Mississippi starts from Lake Itasca which is located in northern Minnesota, and empties into the Gulf of Mexico
  • This great river is about 3,776 km long. So if you were to paddle through this river from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico it would take you 3-4 months to complete your journey

Read on to learn more about this river through the top fun facts about the Mississippi river!

Top 20 Fun Facts About the Mississippi river

1. The Mississippi River is the second-longest river in North America

This River is the second-longest river in North America and stretches about 3,766 kilometers long. It is second only to the Missouri river which is 3,767 kilometers long. A difference of just 1 kilometer!

2. It takes 3 months for a water drop to travel the entire river

If you were to put a drop of water into the river’s starting point at Lake Itasca, it would take that water droplet about 90 days to travel down the river and empty out into the Gulf Of Mexico!

3. The river is about 17 kilometers wide

The widest part of the Mississippi River is at Lake Winnibigoshish near Bena in Minnesota. Here it is wider than 17 kilometers, so it would take quite a while to travel across ot.

4. Mississippi River flows slowly

The Mississippi river flows at the speed of 1. 9 kilometers per hour. An average human being takes about half that time to walk one kilometer.  However, the river’s speed increases to 4.8 kilometers at New Orleans. So on average, we can walk faster than the Mississippi flows!

5. There is a Mississippi River Museum in the USA

Image Source: rivermuseum.com

There is a Mississippi River Museum in Dubuque, a city on the Mississippi river in the US Midwestern state of Iowa. The museum is a center for the study and conservation of the river’s historical and natural environment.

6. The Mississippi has 25% of all fish species in North America 

The Mississippi is home to a wide variety of fish with 260 species in its waters.

The river also houses 25% of all fish in North America! Some of the more interesting species you can find are the Freshwater drum, Blue Catfish, Walleye, White Bass, and Sauger.

7. Water-Skiing was invented on the Mississippi River 

Ralph Samuelson on water skiis
Image Credit:  Scinauticando.com via Wikimedia Commons under CC BY-SA 2.5

In 1922, a young man named Ralph Samuelson invented water skiing on the waters of the Mississippi, in lake Pepin. He initially used two wooden boards and a clothesline to ski! Samuelson used to ski on snow and once, while skiing, he wondered why the same could not be done on water. And that was how the sport came to be!

8. The river flows through 10 U.S. states

If you are still unsure about how long the river is, let us give you a little bit more context.

From its starting to the ending point, the Mississippi river runs through ten US states before emptying out to the Gulf of Mexico.

These are Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana in that order.

9. The word Mississippi comes from…

The word Mississippi is derived from an old Native American and Indian word “misi-ziibi”, which means – “great river”, “great waters” or “father of waters.” 

Native Americans who lived along this river, gave it the name “Father of Waters” in their native Algonquian language, because of the resources they got from it and how big and important it was to their livelihoods.

10. The Mississippi river is 200 feet in depth

Have you wondered – how long is the Mississippi river? Here’s what you need to know.

On average, this river is about 12 feet in depth. At its source, which is is Minnesota, the river is only 3 feet deep. However, the deepest point of the river can be found near Algiers point in New Orleans and it is about 200 feet in depth.

11. Hernando de Soto was the first European to go through the river

Painting by William H. Powell
The painting depicts Hernando De Soto riding a white horse arriving at the Mississippi River on May 8, 1541.

A Spanish explorer named Hernando de Soto has been said to be the first , European who led an expedition to this river. This was in the 16th century.
He may or may not have been the first European, say historians, but he was the first European who documented that he had seen the Mississippi river.

 12. The Mississippi played a part in the Civil War

In the American Civil War (1861-65, fought primarily due to slavery and the abolishing of it) the two sides fought to take control of the river (as it was an important route) and at one point some troops blocked it off and took control of it, so others could not travel and use it for any other purposes.

 13. There is important literature on the Mississippi River

The reason why the Mississippi is important to American culture is not just because it flows through many states but also due to the fact that it is a part of American literature and history!

Mark Twain, who also wrote Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,  wrote about his time as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi river called Life On The Mississippi and was published in 1883. This is still read in schools and universities as it is a significant piece of American literature.

14. The river has been called the “mother fauna” 

The river has been called the “mother fauna” of freshwater in North America and this is because it is home to a diverse range of animal life that use this river as a source of food, water, and shelter. Some of these include the white-tailed dear, the black bear, muskrats, otters, and other such animals.

15. The first person to swim the Mississippi river was Martin Strel

Martin Strel a Slovenian athlete, was the first person to swim the Mississippi River in 2002. He did this in just 68 days! He later went on to swim through the entirety of the Amazon river and won Guinness world records for both of these feats.

16. The first American to swim took 181 days!

In 2015, an American named Chris Ring became the first American to swim the full river. It took him 181 days!

17. You can drive along the Mississippi River

If swimming sounds too difficult a task, not to worry, you can drive along it! In 1938, the Great River Road was established at Lake Itasca and runs along the river Mississippi through ten states and ends at the Gulf of Mexico. So if you were to drive along this river, you can follow the entire lake and get a great view!

18. The worst flood in America happened in the  Mississippi river 

In 1927, the USA experienced the worst flood in its history, known as “ The Great Mississippi Flood”. It submerged over 60,000 square km of land and hundreds of thousands of people lost their homes. 

19. The Mississippi has over 100 bridges 

The Mississippi has about 133 bridges over its waters and many more are still in construction. These bridges are really important as the Mississippi runs through many states that have large populations.

20. The river once flowed backwards

In August  2012, the US Geological Survey’s instruments that were at Belle Chasse recorded that the river ran in the opposite direction for 24 hours during Hurricane Isaac. This isn’t the first time this phenomenon has happened! In 2005, during hurricane Katrina, the river changed its course in the opposite direction as well.

Where does the Mississippi river start? 

The Mississippi starts from lake Itasca which is located in northern Minnesota – which is a midwestern U.S. state that borders Canada

Then it travels through the center of the USA and finally all the way down to Louisiana and empties itself out in the Gulf of Mexico. 

The Mississippi river passes through these 10 states:

Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

As mentioned before the great river road is situated along the river across all ten states so you can see almost the entire river as you drive along it!

How long is the Mississippi river? 

Rivers are hard to measure – this is because sometimes they originate in mountainous regions its hard to pinpoint the exact point of origin. Also, the measurement method, and the year measured, can also add to the difference in opinion about its length.

This is why there is always a debate about the length of rivers – as is with the Amazon river as well.

The Mississippi is said to be about 2,350 miles long – from where it originates to the end.

The U.S. Geological Survey puts the length at 2,300 miles (about 3702 kms), while the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that it is 2,320 miles long (about 3730 kms) .

If you were to paddle through this river from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, it would take you 3-4 months to complete your journey!

However, it is still only the second-longest river in the United States and this is because the Missouri River is longer than the Mississippi.

The Missouri River begins at the Rocky Mountains in Southwestern Montana and ends by joining the Mississippi River just north of St. Louis in Missouri.

As Missouri joins the Mississippi they together make the fourth longest river in the world after the Nile, Amazon, and Yangtze rivers.

As you might now know, the river is a vital source of human, plant, and animal life, however a lot of rivers and water bodies across the world are under threat and it is important for us to read, learn and be aware of these issues.

Well, we hope you learned a lot of information through some really fun facts about the Mississippi river, and if this interested you maybe read up on the river Ganga or the Yangtze which is even longer than the Mississippi!


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