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The Mississippi River/Pixabay
The Mississippi River/Pixabay

16 Facts You Never Knew About The Mississippi River

Picture of Rebeca Trejo
Updated: 5 October 2016
Overflowing with rich history and cultural stories, The Mississippi River or, as  Spaniards would call it, “Rio Grande,” is undeniably a top contender among the most iconic landmarks on the North American continent. A focal point in the United States’ life story, literature, commerce, agriculture, and environmental awareness, this national treasure has been the sight where many of the country’s most memorable happenings have taken place. Read on and discover 16 amazing facts about  ‘The Great River Road’ you may not know about, but will now.

The Mississippi River. . .

  • Received its official title from the Anishinaabe, a group of culturally-related indigenous peoples from Canada and the United States. The original-people, consisting of the Odawa, Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Oji-Cree, and Algonquin, named the river ‘Misi-ziibi,’ meaning ‘Great River’ or ‘gathering of water.’
  • Fosters one of the world’s major river systems in size, biological activity, and habitat diversity, housing 360 species of fish, 326 species of birds, 145 species of amphibians and 50 species of mammals within its banks.
Mississippi River National Park Service/Pixabay

Mississippi River National Park Service/Pixabay

  • Empties into the Gulf of Mexico carrying water from its entire river system, making it the second-largest watershed in the world.
  • Runs through 110 counties and parishes.

  • Combines with the Missouri-Jefferson (Red Rock) to create the longest river system in the United States and North America, as well as the fourth longest tributary in the world.
  • Has only been conquered by Martin Strel, a Slovenian swimmer who became a popular 2002 figure after swimming the entire length of the ‘Great River Road’ in 68 days.
Martin Strel swims the Mighty Mississippi River, courtesy of New Orleans Adventure

Martin Strel swims the Mighty Mississippi River, courtesy of New Orleans Adventure

  • Holds a strong historical significance in the United States. From Native American tribes, European explorers and the American Civil War, to the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and its modern commercial uses.
  • Distributes water for over 15 million people everyday.
  • Possesses such an overwhelming length that it takes 90 days for a single drop of water to travel all the way down it.
  • Served as the inspiration behind many of Mark Twain’s famous stories including the well-known ‘Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,’ which depicts the people and places along the river, ‘The adventures of Tom Sawyer,’ the story of a young boy growing up along the watershed, and ‘Life on the Mississippi,’ chronicling Twain’s experiences as a Mississippi steamboat pilot.
Mark Twain/Pixabay

Mark Twain/Pixabay

  • Flows through 10 states in the U.S. including Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
  • Serves as the present-day source of daily water for 50 cities in the United States.
  • Inspired the nostalgic lyrics for ‘Ol’ Man River’ by Oscar Hammerstein II, whose song contrasts Americans struggles and hardships with the uncaring, endless flow of the ‘Old Blue.’

  • Is the sight where the worst ship disaster in U.S. history took place, claiming the lives of 1,700 Civil War Union soldiers. The soldiers, who had been freed from a Confederate prison in 1865, experienced a steam boiler explosion aboard the steamship Sultana, which was only licensed for 350 passengers, due to its heavy load and fast-paced travel.
  • Witnessed the invention of the popular water-skiing sport in 1922 when Ralph Samuelson aquaplaned across Lake Pepin, a wider portion of the river located between Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Slalom Water Skiing l © Wadewilliams/WikiCommons

Slalom Water Skiing l © Wadewilliams/WikiCommons

By Rebeca Trejo