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Mississippi River
Lower course of the Mississippi through New Orleans
Country  United States
States Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana
Tributaries
 - left St. Croix River, Illinois River, Rock River, Ohio River
 - right Minnesota River, Missouri River, White River, Arkansas River, Red River
Cities Minneapolis, MN, St. Paul, MN, Davenport, IA, St. Louis, MO, Memphis, TN, Baton Rouge, LA, New Orleans, LA
Source Lake Itasca[1]
 - location Itasca State Park, Clearwater County, MN
 - elevation 1,475 ft (450 m)
 - coordinates 47°14′23″N 95°12′27″W / 47.23972°N 95.2075°W / 47.23972; -95.2075
Mouth Gulf of Mexico
 - location Pilottown, Plaquemines Parish, LA
 - elevation ft (0 m)
 - coordinates 29°09′13″N 89°15′03″W / 29.15361°N 89.25083°W / 29.15361; -89.25083
Length 2,320 mi (3,734 km)
Basin 1,151,000 sq mi (2,981,076 km2)
Discharge for Baton Rouge, LA
 - average 450,000 cu ft/s (12,743 m3/s) [2]
Map of the course, watershed, and major tributaries of the Mississippi River
Detailed map of Mississippi River tributary structure

The Mississippi River is the largest river system in the United States and the largest of North America.[3][4] About 2,320 miles (3,730 km) long,[5] the river originates at Lake Itasca, Minnesota and flows slowly southwards in sweeping meanders, terminating 95 river miles below New Orleans, Louisiana where it begins to flow to the Gulf of Mexico. Along with its major tributary, the Missouri River, the river drains all or parts of 31 U.S. states stretching from the Rocky Mountains in the west to the Appalachian Mountains in the east to the Canada-U.S. border on the north, including most of the Great Plains, and is the fourth longest river in the world and the tenth most powerful river in the world.

The current form of the Mississippi River basin was largely shaped by the Cordilleran Ice Sheet of the most recent Ice Age. The southernmost extent of this enormous glaciation extended well into the present-day United States and Mississippi basin. When the ice sheet began to recede, hundreds of feet of rich sediment were deposited, creating the flat and fertile landscape of the Mississippi Valley. During the melt, giant glacial rivers found drainage paths into the Mississippi watershed, creating such features as the Minnesota River, James River, and Milk River valleys. When the ice sheet completely retreated, many of these "temporary" rivers found paths to Hudson Bay or the Arctic Ocean, leaving the Mississippi Basin with many features "oversized" for the existing rivers to have carved in the same time period. The Mississippi River Delta has shifted and changed constantly since the formation of the river, but the construction of dams on the river has greatly reduced the flow of sediment to the delta. In recent years, the Mississippi's mouth has shown a steady shift towards the Atchafalaya River channel, but because of floodworks at the river's mouth, this change of course—which would be catastrophic for seaports at the river mouth—has been held at bay.

Hundreds of Native American tribes have depended on the Mississippi River and its tributaries for thousands of years. Although they knew the river by many different names, it was the Ojibwe word misi-ziibi, meaning Great River, or gichi-ziibi, meaning Big River, that ultimately gave the river its present-day name. European explorers reached the mouth of the river as early as the 1500s and 1600s. The river throughout history has served as the border for New France, New Spain, and the early United States—its size and importance made it a formidable boundary as well as a strategic military location, and later, an important artery for steamboats to travel on. Writer Mark Twain was one of the most well-known figures on the river in this period. Even today, the river serves as partial boundaries for ten states, and most of its course can easily be seen on a political map. The Mississippi has also been known for great flooding events, especially in the twentieth century which experienced up to four 100-year floods. This has led to the construction of hundreds of miles of levees along nearly the entire course of the river, although they have not always succeeded to prevent the greatest floods.

Throughout its history, whether for Native Americans, explorers, or modern commerce, the Mississippi has always been a major navigation route through the center of North America. In the 19th and 20th centuries, despite its slow current and relative depth, a series of dams were constructed on the river, one of the most notable of which is at St. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis. These dams facilitate navigation for a steady stream of barge traffic carrying agricultural products from the fertile Mississippi Basin to the Gulf Coast, and like the Columbia River, most of the Mississippi also is a cascade of reservoirs. Most of its big tributaries—the Missouri and Ohio Rivers—have also been developed for navigation. However, the development of the 20th and 21st centuries has also come with environmental problems, the most infamous of which is the enormous Gulf of Mexico dead zone that extends hundreds of miles out to sea from the river's mouth. Because of dredging activity to deepen the Mississippi River channel, many natural features such as sandbars and meanders no longer exist. Efforts are being made to clean up the river and its tributaries, including the establishment of National Park Service sites on the river and the prevention of agricultural waste from flowing into the river.

Contents

Geography

Confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers at Cairo, Illinois (2006)

From its origin at Lake Itasca to St. Louis, Missouri, the flow of the Mississippi River is moderated by 43 dams. Fourteen of these dams are located above Minneapolis in the headwaters region and serve multiple purposes including power generation and recreation. The remaining 29 dams beginning in downtown Minneapolis all contain locks and were constructed to permit commercial navigation of the upper river. Taken as a whole these 43 dams significantly shape the geography and influence the ecology of the upper river. Beginning just below Saint Paul, Minnesota and continuing throughout the upper and lower river, the Mississippi is further controlled by thousands of wing dikes that moderate the river's flow in order to maintain an open navigation channel and prevent the river from eroding its banks.

The Mississippi River runs through 10 states and was used to define portions of these states' borders. The middle of the riverbed at the time the borders were established was the line to define the borders between states.[6][7] The river has since shifted, but the state borders of Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi have not changed; they still follow the former bed of the Mississippi River as of their establishment.

The widest point of the Mississippi River is Lake Winnibigoshish, near Grand Rapids, Minnesota, at over 7 miles (11 km) across. Also of note is Lake Onalaska, near La Crosse, Wisconsin, where the river is over 4 miles (6.4 km) wide (created by Lock and Dam No. 7) and Lake Pepin at more than 2 miles (3.2 km) wide.[8] However, the first two areas are lakes or reservoirs rather than free flowing water. In other areas where the Mississippi is a flowing river (other than Lake Pepin), it exceeds 1 mile (1.6 km) in width in several places in its lower course.

The Missouri River flows from the confluence of the Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin Rivers and is the longest river in the United States.[4] Taken together, the Jefferson, the Missouri, and the Mississippi form the longest river system in North America. If measured from the source of the Jefferson at Brower's Spring, to the Gulf of Mexico, the length of the Mississippi-Missouri-Jefferson combination is approximately 3,900 miles (6,300 km), making the combination the 4th longest river in the world. The uppermost 207 miles (333 km) of this combined river are called the Jefferson, the lowest 1,352 miles (2,176 km) are part of the Mississippi, and the intervening 2,341 miles (3,767 km) are called the Missouri.

The Arkansas River is the second-longest tributary of the Mississippi River. Measured by water volume, the largest of all Mississippi tributaries is the Ohio River.

The Mississippi River is divided into the upper Mississippi, from its source south to the Ohio River, and the lower Mississippi, from the Ohio to its mouth near New Orleans.

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Upper Mississippi River

The beginning of the Mississippi River at Lake Itasca (2004)

The upper Mississippi River is divided into three sections: the headwaters, 493 miles (793 km); from the source to Saint Anthony Falls; a series of man-made lakes between Minneapolis and St. Louis, Missouri, 664 miles (1,069 km); and the middle Mississippi, 190 miles (310 km), a relatively free-flowing river downstream of the confluence with the Missouri River at St. Louis.

Source

The source of the Upper Mississippi River is Lake Itasca, 1,475 feet (450 m) above sea level in Itasca State Park located in Clearwater County, Minnesota. The name "Itasca" is a combination of the last four letters of the Latin word for truth (veritas) and the first two letters of the Latin word for head (caput).[9] The lake is fed by a number of smaller streams, sometimes considered the river's source.

Coon Rapids Dam
Mississippi Head of Navigation: Coon Rapids Dam

The head of navigation on the Mississippi is the Coon Rapids Dam in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. Before its construction in 1913 steamboats could occasionally go upstream as far as Saint Cloud, depending on river conditions.

The uppermost lock and dam on the Mississippi River is the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam in Minneapolis. Above the dam, the river's elevation is 799 feet (244 m). Below the dam, the river's elevation is 750 feet (230 m). This 49-foot (15 m) drop is the largest of all the Mississippi River locks and dams. The origin of the dramatic drop is a waterfall preserved adjacent to the lock under an apron of concrete. Saint Anthony Falls is the only true waterfall on the entire Mississippi River. The water elevation continues to drop steeply as it passes through the gorge carved by the waterfall

By the time the river reaches Saint Paul, Minnesota, below Lock and Dam #1, it has dropped more than half its original elevation and is 687 feet (209 m) above sea level. From St. Paul to St. Louis Missouri the river elevation falls much more slowly and is controlled and managed as a series of pools created by 26 locks and dams.[10] From St. Louis to the Ohio River confluence, the Mississippi free falls a total of 220 feet (67 m) over a distance of 180 miles (290 km) for an average rate of 1.2 feet per mile (23 cm/km). At the Ohio River confluence the Mississippi is 315 feet (96 m) above sea level.

Tributaries

The Mississippi is joined by the Minnesota River south of the Twin Cities; the St. Croix River near Prescott, Wisconsin; the Black River (Mississippi River), La Crosse River, and Root River (Minnesota) in La Crosse, Wisconsin; the Wisconsin River in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin; the Rock River in the Quad Cities; the Iowa River near Wapello, Iowa; the Skunk River south of Burlington, Iowa; the Des Moines River in Keokuk, Iowa; the Illinois River and the Missouri River near St. Louis; and by the Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois.

Lower Mississippi River

Major sub-tributaries include the Tennessee River (a tributary of the Ohio River) and the Platte River (a tributary of the Missouri River). The Arkansas River joins the Mississippi in southeastern Arkansas. The Yazoo River meets the Mississippi at Vicksburg. The Atchafalaya River in Louisiana is a major distributary of the Mississippi.

Communities along the river

In Minnesota, the Mississippi River runs through the Twin Cities (2007)
Community of boathouses on the Mississippi River in Winona, MN (2006)
The Mississippi River just north of St. Louis (2005)

Many of the communities along the Mississippi River are listed below. They have either historic significance or cultural lore connecting them to the river. They are ordered from the beginning of the river to its end.

Bridge crossings

Norbert F. Beckey bridge at Muscatine with LED lighting-only is the first of its kind
The Chain of Rocks Bridge at St.Louis, Missouri

The first bridge across the Mississippi River was built in 1855. It spanned the river in Minneapolis where the current Hennepin Avenue Bridge is located.[11]

The first railroad bridge across the Mississippi was built in 1856. It spanned the river between the Rock Island Arsenal and Davenport, Iowa. Steamboat captains of the day, fearful of competition from the railroads, considered the new bridge "a hazard to navigation". Two weeks after the bridge opened, the steamboat Effie Afton rammed part of the bridge and started it on fire. Legal proceedings ensued, with Abraham Lincoln defending the railroad. The lawsuit went to the Supreme Court of the United States and was eventually ruled in favor of the railroad.

Below is a general overview of bridges over the Mississippi which have notable engineering or landmark significance with its city. They are ordered from the source to the mouth.

Watershed

Mississippi watershed (2005)

The Mississippi River has the fourth largest drainage basin or "catchment" in the world. The basin covers more than 1,245,000 sq mi (3,220,000 km2), including all or parts of 31 states and two Canadian provinces. The drainage basin empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

Major tributaries of the Mississippi:

Sequence of NASA MODIS images showing the outflow of fresh water from the Mississippi (arrows) into the Gulf of Mexico (2004)

Drainage area and basin

The Mississippi River drains the majority of the area between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains, except for the areas drained to the Hudson Bay via the Red River of the North, by the Saint Lawrence River and the Great Lakes, the Rio Grande (and numerous other rivers in Texas), the Alabama River-Tombigbee River, and the Chattahoochee River-Apalachicola River.

The Mississippi River empties into the Gulf of Mexico about 100 miles (160 km) downstream from New Orleans. Measurements of the length of the Mississippi from Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico vary somewhat, but the United States Geological Survey's number is 2,340 miles (3,770 km). The retention time from Lake Itasca to the Gulf is about 90 days.[12]

Outflow

Fresh river water flowing from the Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico does not mix into the salt water immediately. The images from NASA's MODIS to the right show a large plume of fresh water, which appears as a dark ribbon against the lighter-blue surrounding waters.

The images demonstrate that the plume did not mix with the surrounding sea water immediately. Instead, it stayed intact as it flowed through the Gulf of Mexico, into the Straits of Florida, and entered the Gulf Stream. The Mississippi River water rounded the tip of Florida and traveled up the southeast coast to the latitude of Georgia before finally mixing in so thoroughly with the ocean that it could no longer be detected by MODIS.

Discharge

The Mississippi river discharges at an annual average rate of between 200 and 700 thousand cubic feet per second (7,000–20,000 m3/s).[13] Although it is the 5th largest river in the world by volume, this flow is a mere fraction of the output of the Amazon, which moves nearly 7 million cubic feet per second (200,000 m3/s) during wet seasons. On average, the Mississippi has only 9% the flow of the Amazon River, but is nearly twice that of the Columbia River and almost 6 times the volume of the Colorado River.

Sediment Transport

Prior to 1900, the Mississippi River transported an estimated 400 milion metric tons of sediment per year from the interior of the United States to coastal Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico. During the last two decades, the Mississippi River transported an averaged of 145 million metric tons per year from the interior of the United States to coastal Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico. The reduction of sediment transported down the Mississippi River was the result of engineering modification of the the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio rivers and their tributaries by dams, meander cutoffs, river-training structures, and bank revetments and soil erosion control programs in the areas drained by them.[14]

History

View along the former riverbed at the TN/AR state line near Reverie, TN (2007)

Course changes

Ice sheets during the Illinoian Stage about 300,000 to 132,000 years before present, blocked the Mississippi near Rock Island, Illinois, diverting it to its present channel farther to the west, the current western border of Illinois.

The Hennepin Canal roughly follows the ancient channel of the Mississippi downstream from Rock Island to Hennepin. South of Hennepin, Illinois, the current Illinois River is actually following the ancient channel of the Mississippi River to Alton, Illinois, before the Illinoian Stage.

Other changes in the course of the river have occurred because of earthquakes along the New Madrid Seismic Zone, which lies between Memphis and St. Louis. Three earthquakes in 1811 and 1812, estimated at approximately 8 on the Richter magnitude scale, were said to have temporarily reversed the course of the Mississippi. The settlement of Reverie, Tennessee was cut off from Tipton County, Tennessee, during the 1811 and 1812 earthquakes and placed on the western side of the Mississippi River, the Arkansas side. These earthquakes also created Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee from the altered landscape near the river. The faulting is related to an aulacogen (geologic term for a failed rift) that formed at the same time as the Gulf of Mexico.

Through a natural process known as delta switching, the lower Mississippi River has shifted its final course to the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico every thousand years or so. This occurs because the deposits of silt and sediment begin to clog its channel, raising the river's level and causing it to eventually find a steeper, more direct route to the Gulf of Mexico. The abandoned distributaries diminish in volume and form what are known as bayous. This process has, over the past 5,000 years, caused the coastline of south Louisiana to advance toward the Gulf from 15 to 50 miles (25–80 km). The currently active delta lobe is called the Birdfoot Delta, after its shape, or the Balize Delta, after La Balize, Louisiana, the first French settlement at the mouth of the Mississippi.

Native Americans

The area of the Mississippi valley was first settled by Native American tribes, such as the Cheyenne, Sioux, Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Ho-Chunk, Fox, Kickapoo, Tamaroa, Moingwena, Quapaw and Chickasaw.

The Cheyenne, one of the earliest inhabitants of the upper Mississippi River, called it the Máˀxe-éˀometaaˀe (Big Greasy River) in the Cheyenne language. However, the word Mississippi comes from Messipi, the French rendering of the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe or Algonquin) name for the river, Misi-ziibi (Great River).[15][16]

The Ojibwe called Lake Itasca Omashkoozo-zaaga'igan (Elk Lake) and the river flowing out of it Omashkoozo-ziibi (Elk River). After flowing into Lake Bemidji, the Ojibwe called the river Bemijigamaag-ziibi (River from the Traversing Lake). After flowing into Cass Lake, the name of the river changes to Gaa-miskwaawaakokaag-ziibi (Red Cedar River) and then out of Lake Winnibigoshish as Wiinibiigoozhish-ziibi (Miserable Wretched Dirty Water River), Gichi-ziibi (Big River) after the confluence with the Leech Lake River, then finally as Misi-ziibi (Great River) after the confluence with the Crow Wing River.[17] After the expeditions by Giacomo Beltrami and Henry Schoolcraft, the longest stream above the juncture of the Crow Wing River and Gichi-ziibi was named "Mississippi River". The Mississippi River Band of Chippewa Indians, known as the Gichi-ziibiwininiwag, are named after the stretch of the Mississippi River known as the Gichi-ziibi.

Discovery of the Mississippi by De Soto A.D. 1541 (1847–53) by William Henry Powell depicts DeSoto seeing the River for the first time.

European exploration

On May 8, 1541, Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto became the first recorded European to reach the Mississippi River, which he called Río del Espíritu Santo ("River of the Holy Spirit"), in the area of what is now Mississippi. In Spanish, the river is called Río Mississippi.[18]

French explorers, Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette, began exploring the Mississippi in the 17th century. Marquette traveled with a Sioux named Ne Tongo ("Big river" in Sioux language) in 1673. Marquette proposed calling it the River of the Immaculate Conception.

In 1682, René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle and Henri de Tonti claimed the entire Mississippi River Valley for France, calling the river Colbert River after Jean-Baptiste Colbert and the region La Louisiane, for King Louis XIV. On March 2, 1699, Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville rediscovered the mouth of the Mississippi, following the death of La Salle.[19] The French built the small fort of La Balise there to control passage.

In 1718, about 100 miles (160 km) upriver, New Orleans was established along the river crescent by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, with construction patterned after the 1711 resettlement on Mobile Bay of Mobile, the capital of French Louisiana at the time.

18th century

Following Britain's victory in the Seven Years War the Mississippi became the border between the British and Spanish Empires. The Treaty of Paris (1763) gave Great Britain rights to all land east of the Mississippi and Spain rights to land west of the Mississippi. Spain also ceded Florida to Britain to regain Cuba, which the British occupied during the war. Britain then divided the territory into East and West Florida.

Article 8 of the Treaty of Paris (1783) states, "The navigation of the river Mississippi, from its source to the ocean, shall forever remain free and open to the subjects of Great Britain and the citizens of the United States". With this treaty, which ended the American Revolutionary War, Britain also ceded West Florida back to Spain to regain The Bahamas, which Spain had occupied during the war. Spain then had control over the river, south of 32°30' north latitude and in what is known as the Spanish Conspiracy, hoped to gain greater control of Louisiana and all of the west. These hopes ended when Spain was pressured into signing Pinckney's Treaty in 1795.

19th century

France reacquired 'Louisiana' from Spain in the secret Treaty of San Ildefonso in 1800. The United States bought the territory from France in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. In 1815, the U.S. defeated Britain at the Battle of New Orleans, part of the War of 1812, securing American control of the river.

So many settlers traveled westward through the Mississippi river basin, as well as settled in it, that Zadok Cramer wrote a guide book called The Navigator, detailing the features and dangers and navigable waterways of the area. It was so popular that he updated and expanded it through 12 editions over a period of 25 years.

Shifting sand bars made early navigation difficult.

Steamboat commerce

Mark Twain's book, Life on the Mississippi, covered the steamboat commerce which took place from 1830 to 1870 on the river before more modern ships replaced the steamer. The book was published first in serial form in Harper's Weekly in seven parts in 1875. The full version, including a passage from the unfinished Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and works from other authors, was published by James R. Osgood & Company in 1885.

The first steamboat to travel the full length of the Mississippi from the Ohio River to New Orleans was the New Orleans in December 1811. Its maiden voyage occurred during the series of New Madrid earthquakes in 1811–12.

Steamboat transport remained a viable industry, both in terms of passengers and freight until the end of the first decade of the 20th century. Among the several Mississippi River system steamboat companies was the noted Anchor Line, which from 1859 to 1898 operated a luxurious fleet of steamers between St. Louis and New Orleans.

Civil War

Battle of Vicksburg (ca. 1888)

Control of the river was a strategic objective of both sides in the American Civil War. In 1862 Union's forces coming down the river successfully cleared Confederate defenses at Island Number 10 and Memphis, Tennessee, while Naval forces coming upriver from the Gulf of Mexico captured New Orleans, Louisiana. The remaining major Confederate stronghold was on the heights overlooking the river at Vicksburg, Mississippi, and the Union's Vicksburg Campaign (December 1862 to July, 1863) completed control of the lower Mississippi River. The Union victory ending the Siege of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863 was pivotal to the Union's final victory of the Civil War.

20th century

The "Big Freeze" of 1918/19 blocked river traffic north of Memphis, Tennessee, preventing transportation of coal from southern Illinois. This resulted in widespread shortages, high prices, and rationing of coal in January and February.[20]

In the spring of 1927, the river broke out of its banks in 145 places, during the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and inundated 27,000 sq mi (70,000 km2) to a depth of up to 30 ft (9.1 m).

On October 20, 1976, the automobile ferry, MV George Prince, was struck by a ship traveling upstream as the ferry attempted to cross from Destrehan, Louisiana, to Luling, Louisiana. Seventy-eight passengers and crew died, only eighteen survived the accident.

In 1988, record low water levels provided an opportunity and obligation to examine the climax of the wooden-hulled age. The Mississippi fell to 10 feet (3.0 m) below zero on the Memphis gauge. Four and a half acres of water craft remains were exposed on the bottom of the Mississippi River at West Memphis, Arkansas. They dated to the late 19th to early 20th centuries. The State of Arkansas, the Arkansas Archeological Survey, and the Arkansas Archeological Society responded with a two-month data recovery effort. The fieldwork received national media attention as good news in the middle of a drought.[21]

The Great Flood of 1993 was another significant flood, primarily affecting the Mississippi above its confluence with the Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois.

Two portions of the Mississippi were designated as American Heritage Rivers in 1997: the lower portion around Louisiana and Tennessee, and the upper portion around Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and Missouri.

Campsite at the river in Arkansas

21st century

In 2002, Slovenian long-distance swimmer, Martin Strel, swam the entire length of the river, from Minnesota to Louisiana, over the course of 68 days.

In 2005, the Source to Sea Expedition [4] paddled the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers to benefit the Audubon Society's Upper Mississippi River Campaign.[22][23]

On August 1, 2007, the I-35W Mississippi River bridge in Minneapolis collapsed during the evening rush hour.

Recreation

Water skiing

Great River Road in Wisconsin near Lake Pepin (2005)

The sport of water skiing was invented on the river in a wide region between Minnesota and Wisconsin known as Lake Pepin.[24] Ralph Samuelson of Lake City, Minnesota, created and refined his skiing technique in late June and early July 1922. He later performed the first water ski jump in 1925 and was pulled along at 80 mph (130 km/h) by a Curtiss flying boat later that year.[24]

National parks

There are seven National Park Service sites along the Mississippi River. The Mississippi National River and Recreation Area is the National Park Service site dedicated to protecting and interpreting the Mississippi River itself. The other six National Park Service sites along the river are (listed from north to south):

Navigation history

A clear channel is needed for the barges and other vessels that make the main stem Mississippi one of the great commercial waterways of the world. The task of maintaining a navigation channel is the responsibility of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, which was established in 1802.[25] Earlier projects began as early as 1829 to remove snags, close off secondary channels and excavate rocks and sandbars.

Steamboats entered trade in the 1820s, so the period 1830 – 1850 became the golden age of steamboats. As there were few roads or rails in the lands of the Louisiana Purchase, river traffic was an ideal solution. Cotton, timber and food came down the river, as did Appalachia coal. The port of New Orleans boomed as it was the trans-shipment point to deep sea ocean vessels. As a result, the image of the twin stacked, wedding cake Mississippi steamer entered into American mythology. Steamers worked the entire route from the trickles of Montana, to the Ohio river; down the Missouri and Tennessee. To the main channel of the Mississippi. Only the arrival of the railroads in the 1880s did steamboat traffic diminish. Steamboats remained a feature until the 1920s. Most have been superseded by pusher tugs. A few survive as icons—the Delta Queen and the River Queen for instance.

A series of 29 locks and dams on the upper Mississippi, most of which were built in the 1930s, is designed primarily to maintain a 9 feet (2.7 m) deep channel for commercial barge traffic.[26][27] The lakes formed are also used for recreational boating and fishing. The dams make the river deeper and wider but do not stop it. No flood control is intended. During periods of high flow, the gates, some of which are submersible, are completely opened and the dams simply cease to function. Below St. Louis, the Mississippi is relatively free-flowing, although it is constrained by numerous levees and directed by numerous wing dams.

Barges on the Mississippi River near Ste. Genevieve, Missouri.

19th century

Obstacles – Des Moines, Iowa/Illinois

In 1829, there were surveys of the two major obstacles on the upper Mississippi, the Des Moines Rapids and the Rock Island Rapids, where the river was shallow and the riverbed was rock. The Des Moines Rapids were about 11 mi (18 km) long and just above the mouth of the Des Moines River at Keokuk, Iowa. The Rock Island Rapids were between Rock Island and Moline, Illinois. Both rapids were considered virtually impassable.

In 1848, the Illinois and Michigan Canal was built to connect the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan via the Illinois River near Peru, Illinois. In 1900, the canal was replaced by the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. The canal allowed Chicago to address specific health issues (typhoid fever, cholera and other waterborne diseases) by sending its waste down the Illinois and Mississippi river systems rather than polluting its water source of Lake Michigan. The canal also provided a shipping route between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi.

The Corps of Engineers recommended the excavation of a 5 ft (1.5 m) deep channel at the Des Moines Rapids, but work did not begin until after Lieutenant Robert E. Lee endorsed the project in 1837. The Corps later also began excavating the Rock Island Rapids. By 1866, it had become evident that excavation was impractical, and it was decided to build a canal around the Des Moines Rapids. The canal opened in 1877, but the Rock Island Rapids remained an obstacle.

In 1878, Congress authorized the Corps to establish a 4.5 feet (1.4 m) deep channel to be obtained by building wing dams which direct the river to a narrow channel causing it to cut a deeper channel, by closing secondary channels and by dredging. The channel project was complete when the Moline Lock, which bypassed the Rock Island Rapids, opened in 1907.

Canal – St. Paul, Minnesota

To improve navigation between St. Paul, Minnesota, and Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, the Corps constructed several dams on lakes in the headwaters area, including Lake Winnibigoshish and Lake Pokegama. The dams, which were built beginning in the 1880s, stored spring run-off which was released during low water to help maintain channel depth.

In 1907, Congress authorized a 6 feet (1.8 m) deep channel project on the Mississippi, which was not complete when it was abandoned in the late 1920s in favor of the 9 feet (2.7 m) deep channel project.

20th century

Dam –Keokuk, Iowa

In 1913, construction was complete on a dam at Keokuk, Iowa, the first dam below St. Anthony Falls. Built by a private power company to generate electricity, the Keokuk dam was one of the largest hydro-electric plants in the world at the time. The dam also eliminated the Des Moines Rapids.

Lock and Dam Nos. 1 & 2

Lock and Dam No. 1 was completed in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1917. Lock and Dam No. 2, near Hastings, Minnesota was completed in 1930.

1927 flood

Prior to the 1927 flood, the Corps' primary strategy was to close off as many side channels as possible to increase the flow in the main river. It was thought that the river's velocity would scour off bottom sediments, deepening the river and decreasing the possibility of flooding.

The 1927 flood proved this to be so wrong that communities threatened by the flood began to create their own levee breaks to relieve the force of the rising river.

Rivers and Harbors Act – 1930

The Rivers and Harbors Act of 1930 authorized the 9 feet (2.7 m) channel project, which called for a navigation channel 9 ft (2.7 m) deep and 400 ft (120 m) wide to accommodate multiple-barge tows.[28][29]

This was achieved by a series of locks and dams, and by dredging. Twenty-three new locks and dams were built on the upper Mississippi in the 1930s in addition to the three already in existence.

Late 20th century

A low-water dam deepens the pool above the Chain of Rocks Lock near St. Louis (2006)
Soldiers of the Missouri Army National Guard sandbag the River in Clarksville, Missouri, June 2008, following flooding.

Until the 1950s, there was no dam below Lock and Dam 26 at Alton, Illinois. Chain of Rocks Lock (Lock and Dam No. 27), which consists of a low-water dam and an 8.4 mi (13.5 km) long canal, was added in 1953, just below the confluence with the Missouri River, primarily to bypass a series of rock ledges at St. Louis. It also serves to protect the St. Louis city water intakes during times of low water.

U.S. government scientists determined in the 1950s that the Mississippi River was starting to switch to the Atchafalaya River channel because of its much steeper path to the Gulf of Mexico. Eventually the Atchafalaya River would capture the Mississippi River and become its main channel to the Gulf of Mexico, leaving New Orleans on a side channel. As a result, the U.S. Congress authorized a project called the Old River Control Structure, which has prevented the Mississippi River from leaving its current channel that drains into the Gulf via New Orleans.[30]

Because the large scale of high-energy water flow threatened to damage the structure, an auxiliary flow control station was built adjacent to the standing control station. This US$ 300 million project was completed in 1986 by the U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers.

Beginning in the 1970s, the Corps applied hydrological transport models to analyze flood flow and water quality of the Mississippi.

Dam 26 at Alton, Illinois, which had structural problems, was replaced by the Mel Price Lock and Dam in 1990. The original Lock and Dam 26 was demolished.

21st century

Main floodways

The Corps now actively creates floodways to divert periodic water surges into backwater channels and lakes. The main floodways are the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway, the Morganza Spillway, which directs floodwaters down the Atchafalaya River and the Bonnet Carré Spillway which directs water to Lake Pontchartrain.

The Old River Control Structure also serve as a major floodgates that can be opened to prevent flooding. Some of the pre-1927 strategy is still in use today, the Corps actively cuts the necks of horseshoe bends, allowing the water to move faster and reducing flood heights.

In popular culture

Literature

  • William Faulkner uses the Mississippi River and Delta as the setting for many hunts throughout his novels. It has been proposed that in Faulkner's famous story, The Bear, young Ike first begins his transformation into a man, thus relinquishing his birthright to land in Yoknapatawpha County through his realizations found within the woods surrounding the Mississippi River.
  • Many of the works of Mark Twain deal with or take place near the Mississippi River. One of his first major works, Life on the Mississippi, is in part a history of the river, in part a memoir of Twain's experiences on the river, and a collection of tales that either take place on or are associated with the river. The river was noted for the number of bandits which called its islands and shores home, including John Murrell who was a well-known murderer, horse stealer and slave "re-trader". His notoriety was such that author Twain devoted an entire chapter to him in Life on the Mississippi, and Murrell was rumored to have an island headquarters on the river at Island 37. Twain's most famous work, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is largely a journey down the river. The novel works as an episodic meditation on American culture with the river having multiple different meanings including independence, escape, freedom, and adventure.
  • Herman Melville's novel The Confidence-Man portrayed a Canterbury Tales-style group of steamboat passengers whose interlocking stories are told as they travel down the Mississippi River. The novel is written both as cultural satire and a metaphysical treatise. Like Huckleberry Finn, it uses the Mississippi River as a metaphor for the larger aspects of American and human identity that unify the otherwise disparate characters. The river's fluidity is reflected by the often shifting personalities and identities of Melville's "confidence man".

Music

On The Mississippi, music sheet cover for a 1912 song
  • The stage and movie musical Show Boat's central musical piece is the spiritual-influenced ballad "Ol' Man River".
  • The musical Big River is based on the travels of Huckelberry Finn down the river.
  • Ferde Grofé composed a set of movements for symphony orchestra based on the lands the river travels through in his "Mississippi Suite".
  • The Johnny Cash song "Big River" is about the Mississippi River, and about drifting the length of the river to pursue a relationship that fails.
  • "Mississippi Queen" by the rock group Mountain makes reference to the river.
  • The song "When the Levee Breaks", made famous in the version performed by Led Zeppelin on the album Led Zeppelin IV, was composed by Memphis Minnie McCoy in 1929 after the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. Another song about the flood was "Louisiana 1927" by Randy Newman for the album Good Old Boys.
  • "Roll On Mississippi" and "Mississippi Cotton Picking Delta Town" are two classics from Charlie Pride that refer to the Mississippi River.
  • In one of his books, DuBose Heyward claims that jazz got its name from a black itinerant musician called Jazbo Brown. Around the turn of the 19th century the semi-legendary Brown is said to have played on boats along the Mississippi River, as suggested in "Jazzbo Brown from Memphis Town", performed by Bessie Smith.

See also

References

Notes

  1. ^ The United States Geological Survey recognizes two contrasting definitions of a river's source.[1] By the stricter definition, the Mississippi would share its source with its longest tributary, the Missouri, at Brower's Spring in Montana. The other definition acknowledges "somewhat arbitrary decisions" and places the Mississippi's source at Lake Itasca, which is publicly accepted as the source,[2] and which had been identified as such by Brower himself.[3]
  2. ^ Median of the 1,826 daily mean streamflows recorded by the USGS for the period 1978–1983 at Baton Rouge.
  3. ^ United States Geological Survey Hydrological Unit Code: 08-09-01-00- Lower Mississippi-New Orleans Watershed
  4. ^ a b "Lengths of the major rivers". United States Geological Survey. http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/riversofworld.html. Retrieved 2009-03-14. 
  5. ^ U.S. Army Corps of Engineers navigation charts. 2300 miles from Lake Itasca to Head of Passes -- Southwest Pass is 20 miles.
  6. ^ http://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=2546 encyclopediaofarkansas.net
  7. ^ http://www.yale.edu "Treaty of Friendship, Limits, and Navigation" , Avalon project at the Yale Law School
  8. ^ Mississippi River Facts
  9. ^ Upham, Warren. "Minnesota Place Names: A Geographical Encyclopedia". Minnesota Historical Society. http://mnplaces.mnhs.org/upham/waterway.cfm?PlaceNameID=1481&BookCodeID=30&County=31&SendingPage=Results.cfm. Retrieved 2007-08-14. 
  10. ^ 2001 US Army Corps of Engineers Upper Mississippi River Navigation Chart
  11. ^ Costello, Mary Charlotte (2002). Climbing the Mississippi River Bridge by Bridge, Volume Two: Minnesota. Cambridge, MN: Adventure Publications. ISBN 0-9644518-2-4. 
  12. ^ "General Information about the Mississippi River". Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. National Park Service. 2004. http://www.nps.gov/miss/features/factoids/. Retrieved 2006-07-15. 
  13. ^ Americas Wetland: Resource Center
  14. ^ Meade, R. H., and J. A. Moody, 1984, Causes for the decline of suspended-sediment discharge in the Mississippi River system, 1940–2007 Hydrology Processes. vol. 24, pp. 35-49.
  15. ^ "Freelang Ojibwe Dictionary". http://www.freelang.net/dictionary/ojibwe.html. 
  16. ^ "Mississippi". American Heritage Dictionary. Yourdictionary.com. http://www.yourdictionary.com/ahd/m/m0343500.html. Retrieved 2007-03-06. 
  17. ^ Gilfillan, Joseph A. "Minnesota Geographical Names Derived from the Chippewa Language" in The Geological and Natural History Survey of Minnesota: The Fifteenth Annual Report for the Year 1886 (St. Paul: Pioneer Press Company, 1887)
  18. ^ http://www.cec.org/naatlas/NA-Watersheds.gif Cec.org
  19. ^ "Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville" (bio), webpage from The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII, 1910, New York: CathEn-07614b.
  20. ^ Southeast Missouri State University: The Big Freeze, 1918-1919.
  21. ^ UA-WRI Research Station, Historical Archeology. "Ghost Boats of the Mississippi". http://www.uark.edu/campus-resources/archinfo/atughostboats.html. 
  22. ^ "Upper Mississippi River Campaign". National Audubon Society. 2006. http://www.audubon.org/campaign/umr. Retrieved 2006-11-29. 
  23. ^ "Paddling the Mississippi River to Benefit the Audubon Society". Source to Sea: The Mississippi River Project. Source to Sea 2006. 2006. http://www.sourcetosea.net. Retrieved 2006-11-29. 
  24. ^ a b "The Beginning". USA Water Ski.org. 2009. http://www.usawaterski.org/pages/USA-WS%20Profile.htm. Retrieved 30 July 2009. 
  25. ^ [US Army Corps of Engineers, Brief History]
  26. ^ "Mississippi River". USGS: Status and trends of the nation's biological resources. http://biology.usgs.gov/s+t/SNT/noframe/ms137.htm. Retrieved 2007-02-03. 
  27. ^ "U.S. Waterway System Facts, December 2005" (PDF). USACE Navigation Data Center. http://www.iwr.usace.army.mil/ndc/factcard/fc05/factcard.pdf. Retrieved 2006-04-27. 
  28. ^ "The Mississippi and its Uses". Natural Resource Management Section, Rock Island Engineers. http://www.mvr.usace.army.mil/missriver/Interp/MissUses.htm. Retrieved 2006-06-21. 
  29. ^ "Appendix E: Nine-foot navigation channel maintenance activities". National Park Service, Mississippi National River and Recreation Area Comprehensive Management Plan. http://www.nps.gov/miss/info/cmp/appendices/appendix_e.html. Retrieved 2006-06-21. 
  30. ^ "The Old River Control Structure on the Lower Mississippi River". www.sjsu.edu. http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/oldriver.htm. Retrieved 2009-06-12. 

Bibliography

  • Anfinson, John O.; Thomas Madigan, Drew M. Forsberg, and Patrick Nunnally (2003). The River of History: A Historic Resources Study of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District. OCLC 53911450. 
  • Bartlett, Richard A. (1984). Rolling rivers: an encyclopedia of America's rivers. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-003910-0. OCLC 10807295. 
  • Penn, James R. (2001). Rivers of the world: a social, geographical, and environmental sourcebook. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1-57607-042-5. OCLC 260075679. 
  • Smith, Thomas Ruys (2007). River of dreams: imagining the Mississippi before Mark Twain. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 978-0-8071-3233-3. OCLC 182615621. 

External links



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Template:Geobox River

The Mississippi River is the second longest river in the United States, with a length of 2,320 miles (3,734 km) from Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico. (The longest is its tributary the Missouri River measuring 2565 miles.) The Mississippi River is part of the Jefferson-Missouri-Mississippi river system, which is the largest river system in North America and among the largest in the world: by length (6,275 km or 3,900 miles), it is the fourth longest, and by average discharge (16,200 m³/s), it is the tenth largest. The longest of the many long Mississippi tributaries is the Missouri River with the Arkansas River as second longest. Measured by water volume, the largest of all Mississippi tributaries is the Ohio River. The river starts in Minnesota and then empties into the Gulf of Mexico. The name Mississippi is derived from the Ojibwe word misi-ziibi meaning 'great river' (gichi-ziibi 'big river' at its headwaters).

Contents

Geography

See also: Upper Mississippi River and Mississippi River Delta
The source of the Mississippi River on the edge of Lake Itasca

From its source at Lake Itasca, 1,475 feet (450 m) above sea level in Itasca State Park located in Clearwater County, the river falls to 801 feet (244 m) prior to St. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis. There it drops to 725 feet (220 m), creating the only waterfall along the river's course. The Mississippi is joined by the Minnesota River in Minneapolis, the Wisconsin River in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, the Illinois River and the Missouri River near St. Louis, and by the Ohio River at Cairo. The Arkansas River joins the Mississippi in the state of Arkansas. The Atchafalaya River in Louisiana is a major distributary of the Mississippi.

The Mississippi drains most of the area between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains, except for the areas drained by Hudson Bay via the Red River of the North, the Great Lakes and the Rio Grande. It runs through two states — Minnesota and Louisiana — and was used to define the borders of eight states. The river has since shifted, but the state borders of Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi have not changed. The river empties into the Gulf of Mexico about 100 miles (160 km) downstream from New Orleans. Measurements of the length of the Mississippi from Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico vary, but the EPA's number is 2,320 miles (3,733 km). The retention time from Lake Itasca to the Gulf is about 90 days.[1]

Confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers at Cairo.

The river is divided into the upper Mississippi, from its source south to the Ohio River, and the lower Mississippi, from the Ohio to its mouth near New Orleans. The upper Mississippi is further divided into three sections: the headwaters, from the source to Saint Anthony Falls; a series of man-made lakes between Minneapolis and St. Louis, Missouri; and the middle Mississippi, a relatively free-flowing river downstream of the confluence with the Missouri River at St. Louis.

A series of 29 locks and dams on the upper Mississippi, most of which were built in the 1930s, is designed primarily to maintain a 9 foot (2.7 m) deep channel for commercial barge traffic.[2][3] The lakes formed are also used for recreational boating and fishing. The dams make the river deeper and wider but do not stop it. No flood control is intended. During periods of high flow, the gates, some of which are submersible, are completely opened and the dams simply cease to function. Below St. Louis, the Mississippi is relatively free-flowing, although it is constrained by numerous levees and directed by numerous wing dams.

Through a natural process known as delta switching the lower Mississippi River has shifted its final course to the ocean every thousand years or so. This occurs because the deposits of silt and sediment begin to clog its channel, raising the river's level and causing it to eventually find a steeper, more direct route to the Gulf of Mexico. The abandoned distributary diminishes in volume and forms what are known as bayous. This process has, over the past 5,000 years, caused the coastline of south Louisiana to advance toward the Gulf from 15 to 50 miles (25 to 80 km).

U.S. government scientists determined in the 1950s that the Mississippi River was starting to switch to the Atchafalaya River channel because of its much steeper path to the Gulf of Mexico. Eventually the Atchafalaya River would capture the Mississippi River and become its main channel to the Gulf of Mexico, leaving New Orleans on a side channel. As a result, the U.S. Congress authorized a project called the Old River Control Structure, which has prevented the Mississippi River from leaving its current channel that drains into the Gulf via New Orleans. Because of the large scale of high energy water flow through the Old River Control Structure threatening to damage the structure, an auxiliary flow control station was built adjacent to the standing control station. This US$300 million project was completed in 1986 by the Army Corps Of Engineers.

The Great River Road in Wisconsin; Minnesota is in the land mass across the Mississippi River at Lake Pepin

Course changes

The Illinoian Glacier, about 200,000 to 125,000 years before present, blocked the Mississippi near Rock Island, diverting it to its present channel farther to the west (current western border of Illinois). The Hennepin Canal roughly follows the ancient channel of the Mississippi downstream from Rock Island to Hennepin. South of Hennepin, the current Illinois River is actually following the ancient channel of the Mississippi River to Alton before the Illinoian glaciation.

Other changes in the course of the river have occurred because of earthquakes along the New Madrid Fault Zone, which lies between the cities of Memphis and St. Louis. Three earthquakes in 1811 and 1812, estimated at approximately 8 on the Richter Scale, were said to have temporarily reversed the course of the Mississippi.

The settlement of Reverie was cut off from Tipton County, Tennessee during the 1811 and 1812 earthquakes and placed on the western side of the Mississippi River, the Arkansas side.

These earthquakes also created Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee from the altered landscape near the river. The faulting is related to an aulacogen (geologic term for a failed rift) that formed at the same time as the Gulf of Mexico.

Watershed

Mississippi Watershed

The Mississippi River has the third largest drainage basin ("catchment") in the world, exceeded in size only by the watersheds of the Amazon River and Congo River. It drains 41% of the 48 contiguous states of the United States. The basin covers more than 1,245,000 square miles (3,225,000 km²), including all or parts of 31 states and two Canadian provinces.

Major tributaries of the Mississippi:

Major sub-tributaries include the Tennessee River (a tributary of the Ohio River) and the Platte River (a tributary of the Missouri River).

Mississippi - Missouri river system

The longest named river in North America is the Missouri River, with a length of 2,341 miles (3,767 km) from the confluence of the Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin to the Mississippi River. Taken together, the Jefferson, Missouri, and Mississippi form the largest river system in North America.

If measured from the source of the Jefferson at Brower's Spring to the Gulf of Mexico, the length of the Mississippi-Missouri-Jefferson combination is approximately 3,900 miles (6,275 km), making the combination the 4th longest river in the world. The uppermost 207 mi (333 km) of this combined river are called the Jefferson, the lowest 1,352 mi (2,175 km) are part of the Mississippi, and the intervening 2,341 mi (3,767 km) are called the Missouri.

Outflow

Sequence of NASA MODIS images showing the outflow of fresh water from the Mississippi (marked by arrows) into the Gulf of Mexico.

Fresh river water flowing from the Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico does not mix into the salt water immediately. The images from NASA's MODIS to the right show a large plume of fresh water, which appears as a dark ribbon against the lighter-blue surrounding waters.

The images demonstrate that the plume did not mix with the surrounding sea water immediately. Instead, it stayed intact as it flowed through the Gulf of Mexico, into the Straits of Florida, and entered the Gulf Stream. The Mississippi River water rounded the tip of Florida and traveled up the southeast coast to the latitude of Georgia before finally mixing in so thoroughly with the ocean that it could no longer be detected by MODIS.

The Mississippi river discharges at an annual average rate of between 200,000 and 700,000 cubic feet per second (7,000 to 20,000 m³/s).[4] Although it is the 5th largest river in the world by volume, this flow is a mere fraction of the output of the Amazon, which moves nearly 7 million ft³/s (200,000 m³/s) during wet seasons. On average the Mississippi has only 1/11th the flow of the Amazon River, but is nearly twice that of the Columbia River and almost 6 times the volume of the Colorado River.

History

Nomenclature

The word Mississippi comes from Messipi, the French rendering of the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe or Algonquin) name for the river, Misi-ziibi, which means "great river."[5][6] The Ojibwe name Misi-ziibi applied only to the portion below the Crow Wing River, but the ever-changing names of the river seemed illogical to the English speakers. After the expeditions by Giacomo Costantino Beltrami and Henry Schoolcraft, the longest stream above the juncture of the Crow Wing River and Gichi-ziibi was named "Mississippi River".

Early American

On May 8, 1541, Hernando de Soto became the first recorded European to reach the Mississippi River, which he called "Rio de Espiritu Santo" (River of the Holy Spirit). (The river is now called Rio Misisipi in Spanish.[2]) French explorers Louis Joliet and Jacques Marquette began exploring the Mississippi. He traveled with a Sioux named "Ne Tongo" (which in Sioux means big river) in 1673. Marquette proposed calling it the River of the Immaculate Conception. In 1682, René Robert Cavelier and Henri de Tonty claimed the entire Mississippi River Valley for France, calling the river Colbert River after Jean-Baptiste Colbert and the region Louisiana, for King Louis XIV. In 1718, New Orleans was established by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville.

France lost all its territories on the North American mainland as a result of the French and Indian War. The Treaty of Paris gave the Kingdom of Great Britain rights to all land in the valley east of the Mississippi and Spain rights to land west of the Mississippi. Spain also ceded Florida to England to regain Cuba, which the English occupied during the war. Britain then divided the territory into East Florida and West Florida.

Article 8 of the Treaty of Paris states, "The navigation of the river Mississippi, from its source to the ocean, shall forever remain free and open to the subjects of Great Britain and the citizens of the United States." With this treaty, which ended the American Revolution, Britain also ceded West Florida back to Spain to regain the Bahamas, which Spain had occupied during the war. Spain then had control over the river south of 32°30' north latitude and, in what is known as the Spanish Conspiracy, hoped to gain greater control of Louisiana and all of the west. These hopes ended when Spain was pressured into signing Pinckney's Treaty in 1795. France reacquired 'Louisiana' from Spain in the secret Treaty of San Ildefonso in 1800. The United States bought the territory from France in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.

The river was noted for the number of bandits which called its islands and shores home, including John Murrell who was a well-known murderer, horse stealer and slave "re-trader". His notoriety was such that author Mark Twain devoted an entire chapter to him in his book Life on the Mississippi, and Murrell was rumored to have an island headquarters on the river at Island 37.

Shifting sand bars in the Mississippi, such as these in Arkansas and Mississippi, made navigation in the river difficult.

19th century

Twain's book also extensively covered the steamboat races which took place from 1830 to 1870 on the river before more modern boating methods replaced the steamer. It was published first in serial form in Harper's Weekly in seven parts in 1875. The full version, including a passage from the unfinished Huckleberry Finn and works from other authors, was published by James R. Osgood & Co. in 1885. The first steamboat to travel the full length of the Mississippi from the Ohio River to New Orleans, Louisiana, was the New Orleans in December 1811. Its maiden voyage occurred during the series of New Madrid earthquakes in 1811–12. Steamboat transport remained a viable industry (both in terms of passengers and freight) until the end of the first decade of the twentieth century. Among the several Mississippi River system steamboat companies was the noted Anchor Line, which from 1859 to 1898 operated a luxurious fleet of steamers between St. Louis and New Orleans.

In 1815, America defeated Britain at the Battle of New Orleans, part of the War of 1812.

The river played a decisive role in the American Civil War. The Union's Vicksburg Campaign called for Union control of the lower Mississippi River. The Union victory at the Battle of Vicksburg in 1863 was pivotal to the Union's final victory of the Civil War.

In 1848, the Illinois and Michigan Canal was built to connect the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan via the Illinois River near Peru. In 1900, the canal was replaced by the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. The canal allowed Chicago to address specific health issues (typhoid, cholera and other waterborne diseases) by sending its waste down the Illinois and Mississippi river systems rather than polluting its water source of Lake Michigan. The canal also provided a shipping route between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi.

20th century

On The Mississippi, music sheet cover for a 1912 song

The sport of water skiing was invented on the river in a wide region between Minnesota and Wisconsin known as Lake Pepin. Ralph Samuelson of Lake City, created and refined his skiing technique in late June and early July 1922. He later performed the first water ski jump in 1925 and was pulled along at 80 miles per hour (128 km/h) by a Curtiss flying boat later that year.

In the spring of 1927, the river broke out of its banks in 145 places during the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and inundated 27,000 square miles (70,000 km²) to a depth of up to 30 feet (10 m).

On October 20, 1976, the automobile ferry MV George Prince was struck by a ship traveling upstream as the ferry attempted to cross from Destrehan, to Luling. Seventy-eight passengers and crew died; only eighteen survived the accident.

The Great Flood of 1993 was another significant flood, although it primarily affected the Mississippi above its confluence with the Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois.

Two portions of the Mississippi were designated as some of the American Heritage Rivers in 1997: The lower portion around Louisiana and Tennessee, and the upper portion around Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and Missouri.

21st century

In 2002 the Slovenian long-distance swimmer Martin Strel swam the entire length of the river, from Minnesota to Louisiana, over the course of 68 days.
Canoers' campsite on a sandbar in the Mississippi River near Old Town, Arkansas.

In 2005, the Source to Sea Expedition (http://sourcetosea.net) paddled the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers to benefit the Audubon Society's Upper Mississippi River Campaign.[7][8]

On August 1, 2007, the I-35W Mississippi River bridge in Minneapolis collapsed during the evening rush hour.

Also in 2007, it is expected that more than 150 pleasure boats will travel down the river from Grafton to Cairo while participating in the Great loop, which is circumnavigation of Eastern North America by water.

Navigation

The Lock & Dam at Dubuque.

A clear channel is needed for the barges and other vessels that make the mainstem Mississippi one of the great commercial waterways of the world. The task of maintaining a navigation channel is the responsibility of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which was established in 1866. Earlier projects began as early as 1829 to remove snags, close off secondary channels and excavate rocks and sandbars. In 1829, there were surveys of the two major obstacles on the upper Mississippi, the Des Moines Rapids and the Rock Island Rapids, where the river was shallow and the riverbed was rock. The Des Moines Rapids were about 11 miles (18 km) long and just above the mouth of the Des Moines River at Keokuk. The Rock Island Rapids were between Rock Island and Moline. Both rapids were considered virtually impassable.

On a side note, it is at this Quad Cities area of the Mississippi River that the river flows East to West as opposed to its normal course North to South.

The Corps recommended excavation of a 5 foot (1.5 m) deep channel at the Des Moines Rapids, but work did not begin until after Lieutenant Robert E. Lee endorsed the project in 1837. The Corps later also began excavating the Rock Island Rapids. By 1866, it had become evident that excavation was impractical, and it was decided to build a canal around the Des Moines Rapids. The canal opened in 1877, but the Rock Island Rapids remained an obstacle.

In 1878, Congress authorized the Corps to establish a 4.5 foot (1.4 m) deep channel to be obtained by building wing dams which direct the river to a narrow channel causing it to cut a deeper channel, by closing secondary channels and by dredging. The channel project was complete when the Moline Lock, which bypassed the Rock Island Rapids, opened in 1907.

To improve navigation between St. Paul, and Prairie du Chien, the Corps constructed several dams on lakes in the headwaters area, including Lake Winnibigoshish and Lake Pokegama. The dams, which were built beginning in the 1880s, stored spring run-off which was released during low water to help maintain channel depth.

In 1907, Congress authorized a 6 foot (1.8 m) deep channel project on the Mississippi, which was not complete when it was abandoned in the late 1920s in favor of the 9 foot (2.7 m) deep channel project.

In 1913, construction was complete on a dam at Keokuk, Iowa, the first dam below St. Anthony Falls. Built by a private power company to generate electricity, the Keokuk dam was one of the largest hydro-electric plants in the world at the time. The dam also eliminated the Des Moines Rapids.

Boats lined up at Lock and Dam No. 2, Hastings
Dam No. 27 is a low water rock dam that creates a pool for the Chain of Rocks canal and its Lock No. 27 which take traffic around exposed bedrock north of St. Louis.

Lock and Dam No. 1 was completed in Minneapolis in 1917 and Lock and Dam No. 2 at Hastings, was completed in 1930.

Prior to the 1927 flood, the Corps' primary strategy was to close off as many side channels as possible to increase the flow in the main river. It was thought that the river's velocity would scour off bottom sediments, deepening the river and decreasing the possibility of flooding. The 1927 flood proved this so wrong that communities threatened by the flood began to make their own levee breaks to relieve the tension of the rising river.

The Corps now actively creates floodways to divert periodic water surges into backwater channels and lakes. The main floodways are the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway; the Morganza Floodway, which directs floodwaters down the Atchafalaya River; and the Bonnet Carré Spillway which directs water to Lake Pontchartrain. The Old River Control structure also serve as a major floodgates that can be opened to prevent flooding. Some of the pre-1927 strategy is still in use today; the Corps actively cuts the necks of horseshoe bends, allowing the water to move faster and reducing flood heights.

The Rivers and Harbors Act of 1930 authorized the 9 foot (2.7 m) channel project, which called for a navigation channel 9 feet (2.7 m) deep and 400 feet (120 m) wide to accommodate multiple-barge tows.[9][10] This was achieved by a series of locks and dams, and by dredging. Twenty-three new locks and dams were built on the upper Mississippi in the 1930s in addition to the three already in existence. Two new locks were built north of Lock and Dam No. 1 at Saint Anthony Falls in the 1960s, extending the head of navigation for commercial traffic several miles, but few barges go past the city of Saint Paul today.

Beginning in the 1970s, the Corps applied hydrology transport models to analyze flood flow and water quality of the Mississippi.

The Mississippi River just north of St. Louis

Until the 1950s, there was no dam below Lock and Dam 26 at Alton. Lock and Dam 27, which consists of a low-water dam and an 8.4 mile (13.5 km) long canal, was added in 1953 just below the confluence with the Missouri River, primarily to bypass a series of rock ledges at St. Louis. It also serves to protect the St. Louis city water intakes during times of low water.

Dam 26 at Alton, Illinois, which had structural problems, was replaced by the Mel Price Lock and Dam in 1990. The original Lock and Dam 26 was demolished.


Cities along the river

The cities below have either historic significance or cultural lore connecting them to the Mississippi River. They are ordered from the beginning of the river to its end.

People live year-round in this community of boathouses on the Mississippi River in Winona
In Minnesota, the Mississippi River runs through the Twin Cities and defines part of each city's border.

Bridge crossings

See also: List of crossings of the Upper Mississippi River and List of crossings of the Lower Mississippi River

The first bridge across the Mississippi River was built in 1855. It spanned the river in Minneapolis where the current Hennepin Avenue Bridge is located.[11] The first railroad bridge across the Mississippi was built in 1856. It spanned the river between Arsenal Island at Rock Island and Davenport. Steamboat captians of the day, fearful of competition from the railroads, considered the new bridge "a hazard to navigation". Two weeks after the bridge opened, the steamboat Effie Afton rammed part of the bridge and started it on fire. Legal proceedings ensued - with a young lawyer named Abraham Lincoln defending the railroad. The lawsuit went all the way up to the Supreme Court, and was eventually ruled in favor of Lincoln and the railroad. Below is a general overview of bridges over the Mississippi which have notable engineering or landmark significance with its city. They are ordered from the source to the mouth.

The Dubuque-Wisconsin Bridge. The bridge connects Dubuque with Grant County.
The Stone Arch Bridge, the Third Avenue Bridge, and the Hennepin Avenue Bridge, in Minneapolis

Popular culture

The Mississippi River is a commonly cited natural boundary for purposes of dividing the United States into eastern and western sections, with places often being described as east or west "of the Mississippi".

Nicknames

Due to its size and historical significance, the Mississippi has many nicknames. Among these are:
Boaters on Hogback Island, north of Quincy, Illinois.
  • The Father of Waters
  • The Gathering of Waters
  • The Big Muddy (more commonly associated with the Missouri River)
  • Big River
  • Old Man River (a nickname immortalized by Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern in their song from the classic musical Show Boat)
  • The Great River
  • Body of a Nation
  • The Mighty Mississippi
  • El Grande (de Soto)
  • The Muddy Mississippi
  • Old Blue
  • Moon River

Literature and music

William Faulkner uses the Mississippi river and Delta as the setting for many hunts throughout his novels. It has been proposed that in Faulkner's famous story, "The Bear", young Ike first begins his transformation into a man, thus relinquishing his birthright to land in Yoknapatawpha County due to his realizations found within the woods surrounding the Mississippi River. Many of the works of Mark Twain deal with or take place near the Mississippi River. One of his first major works, Life on the Mississippi, is in part a history of the river, in part a memoir of Twain's experiences on the river, and a collection of tales that either take place on or are associated with the river. Twain's most famous work, Huckleberry Finn, is largely a journey down the river. The novel works as an episodic meditation on American culture with the river as the central metaphor.

Herman Melville's novel The Confidence-Man portrayed a Canterbury Tales-style group of steamboat passengers whose interlocking stories are told as they travel down the Mississippi River. The novel is written both as cultural satire and a metaphysical treatise. Like Huckleberry Finn, it uses the Mississippi River as a metaphor for the larger aspects of American and human identity that unify the otherwise disparate characters. The river's fluidity is reflected by the often shifting personalities and identities of Melville's "confidence man."

The second chapter ("The Master of the Mississippi") of Don Rosa's famous comic book The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck about the "Last of the Clan McDucks" is set on the Mississippi. Scrooge works here for his Uncle Angus "Pothole" McDuck on a wheel steamer and has his first encounter with The Beagle Boys.

The stage and movie musical Show Boat's central musical piece is the spiritual-influenced ballad "Ol' Man River".

Ferde Grofe composed a set of movements for symphony orchestra based on the lands the river travels through in his Mississippi Suite.

The Johnny Cash song "Big River" is about the Mississippi River.

The song "When the Levee Breaks", made famous in the version performed by Led Zeppelin on the album Led Zeppelin IV, was composed by Memphis Minnie McCoy in 1929 after the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. Another song about the flood was "Louisiana 1927" by Randy Newman for the album Good Old Boys.

"Moon River" from the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany's refers to the Mississippi River.

See also

References

  1. ^ General Information about the Mississippi River. Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. National Park Service (2004). Retrieved on 2006-07-15.
  2. ^ Mississippi River. USGS: Status and trends of the nation's biological resources. Retrieved on 2007-02-03.
  3. ^ U.S. Waterway System Facts, December 2005 (PDF). USACE Navigation Data Center. Retrieved on 2006-04-27.
  4. ^ Americas Wetland: Resource Center [1]
  5. ^ Freelang Ojibwe Dictionary.
  6. ^ {{cite web |url=http://www.yourdictionary.com/ahd/m/m0343500.html |title=Mississippi |accessdate = 2007-03-06 |work=American Heritage Dictionary
  7. ^ Upper Mississippi River Campaign. National Audubon Society (2006). Retrieved on 2006-11-29.
  8. ^ Paddling the Mississippi River to Benefit the Audubon Society. Source to Sea: The Mississippi River Project. Source to Sea 2006 (2006). Retrieved on 2006-11-29.
  9. ^ The Mississippi and its Uses. Natural Resource Management Section, Rock Island Engineers. Retrieved on 2006-06-21.
  10. ^ Appendix E: Nine-foot navigation channel maintenance activities. National Park Service, Mississippi National River and Recreation Area Comprehensive Management Plan. Retrieved on 2006-06-21.
  11. ^ Costello, Mary Charlotte (2002). Climbing the Mississippi River Bridge by Bridge, Volume Two: Minnesota. Cambridge, MN: Adventure Publications. ISBN 0-9644518-2-4. 

Further reading

  • Penn, James R. (2001). Rivers of the World. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1-57607-042-5. 
  • Bartlett, Richard A. (1984). Rolling Rivers: An encyclopedia of America's rivers. R. R. Donnelley and Sons. ISBN 0-07-003910-0. 

External links

Online maps and aerial photos

Mouth or other endpoint (Gulf of Mexico)

Source (Lake Itasca)

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This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Mississippi River. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.

This article uses material from the "Mississippi River" article on the Genealogy wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

Simple English

File:Mississippi-map.gif
Map of the Mississippi River basin, or the land drained by the river and its tributaries, or rivers that flow into it.

The Mississippi River is a river in the United States. It is one of the longest rivers in the world.

The name "Mississippi" comes from a Native American name that means "big river."

The source of the Mississippi is in the state of Minnesota, near the border with Canada. The Mississippi flows south through the middle of the United States. It flows past the states of Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi.

The mouth of the Mississippi is in the state of Louisiana, south of the city of New Orleans. The Mississippi flows into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Mississippi has many large tributaries, or rivers that flow into it. The watershed of the Mississippi covers much of the United States. This means that the Mississippi and its tributaries drain much of the United States.

Some important tributaries of the Mississippi are (listed from the source to the mouth of the river):

The Mississippi has been extremely important for transportation in the history of the United States. When the United States first became a nation, the Mississippi River was the western boundary of the United States.

At the end of the Mississippi there is a zone in the Gulf of Mexico where very few animals can survive comfortably because of the fertilizer and other chemicals that run off of farms into the river and its tributaries, which then dump them into the gulf.[1]

The Mississippi River in books

A big part of the book Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is set on the Mississippi River.

References


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