Mississippi River, a.k.a. Old Man River
The two largest drainage systems in North America are (1) Hudson Bay (2) Mississippi River (MR).
Our focus is the MR. It rises in northern Minnesota, flowing 2,320 miles through the United States, ending at the MR Delta at the Gulf of Mexico.
It drains parts of 31 U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces between the Rocky and the Appalachian Mountains.
The MR is the 4th longest and 5th largest river in the world based on discharge. It passes through or borders the following states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
Native Americans lived along with the MR for years. Most were hunter-gathers, such as the Mound Builders. The Europeans arrived in the 16th Century, changing the Natives’ lives as first explorers and later as settlers. First, the MR served as a barrier, forming New Spain, New France, and the early United States as a vital transportation artery and communications link. Then, during the height of the ideology of manifest destiny in the 19th Century, the Mississippi, along with several western tributaries, most notably the Missouri, created pathways for the western expansion of the U.S.
Formed with silt deposits, the Mississippi River embankment is one of the most fertile agricultural regions of the U.S., resulting in the river’s storied steamboat era. During the Civil War, the Mississippi’s capture by the Union forces marked a turning point towards victory due to the river’s importance as a route of trade and travel. Due to the substantial growth of cities and the large ships and barges that supplanted riverboats, the first decades of the 20th Century saw massive engineering works.
The Mississippi River can be divided into three sections:
- Upper Mississippi
- Middle Mississippi
- Lower Mississippi
Upper Mississippi – runs from its headwaters to its confluence with the Missouri River at Saint Louis, Missouri. It is divided into two sections:
- The headwaters, running 493 miles, from the source to St. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
- It is a navigable channel created by several human-made lakes between Minneapolis and St. Louis, Missouri, for approximately 664 miles.
It has been accepted that the source of the Upper Mississippi branch is Lake Itasca, which is 1475 feet above sea level, located in Itasca State Park in Clearwater County, Minnesota.
Middle Mississippi – it falls, or declines, approximately 220 feet over 180 miles for an average, averaging 1.2 feet per mile. At the confluence of the Ohio River, the Mississippi is 315 feet above sea level. Besides the Missouri and Meramec rivers of Missouri and the Kaskaskia River in Illinois, no major tributaries enter the Middle Mississippi River.
From its confluence with the Ohio River to its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico, Lower Mississippi is approximately 1,000 miles.
The Mississippi River is an important asset to the city of St. Louis, Missouri. It attracts tourists, provides transportation, and much more.
Economic development for St. Louis is the responsibility of the St. Louis Port Authority.
St. Louis Port Authority
The Port Authority of the City of St. Louis supports economic development in the City’s 6,000-acre Port District, which lies along the City’s 19 miles of Mississippi River frontage. It manages leases for City-owned property in this area and works with shipping stakeholders across the bi-state area to promote regional commerce.