16 Facts You Never Knew About The Mississippi River

The Mississippi River/Pixabay
The Mississippi River/Pixabay
Photo of Rebeca Trejo
30 April 2018

With rich history and a special place in the hearts of locals, The Mississippi River 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 site where many of the country’s most memorable happenings have taken place. Read on and discover 16 amazing facts about this river you may not have known.

The Mississippi River…

  • received its official title from the Anishinaabe, a group of indigenous peoples from Canada and the United States. The group, consisting of the Odawa, Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Oji-Cree, and Algonquin, named the river “Misi-ziibi,” meaning ‘Great River’ or ‘gathering of water;’
  • is one of the world’s major river systems in size, biological activity, and habitat diversity. It houses 360 species of fish, 326 species of birds, 145 species of amphibians and 50 species of mammals within its banks;

Casino Boat riverboat in Natchez, Mississippi | © Skeeze / Pixabay

  • is at its deepest at Algiers Point, a location on the Lower Mississippi River in New Orleans, Louisiana;
  • 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) rivers 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 figure in 2002 after swimming the entire length of the ‘Great River Road’ (2,414 miles / 3,885 kilometers) in 68 days;

Martin Strel swam the entire length of the Mississippi river for clean waters, peace and friendship | © borutstrel / WikiCommons

  • holds a strong historical significance in the United States, from Native American tribes depending on its resources to European explorers combing its shores to being an important setting during the American Civil War to flooding the land during the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927;
  • distributes water to over 18 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 depicted 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, which chronicled Twain’s experiences as a Mississippi steamboat pilot;

Mark Twain/Pixabay | © Skeeze / 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 62 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 site where the worst maritime 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 boiler explosion aboard the steamship Sultana, which was only built to hold 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

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