The Missouri River, which joins with the Mississippi River just north of St. Louis at the famous convergence, is the longest river in North America. Rising in the Rocky Mountains of western Montana, the river flows east and south for 2,341 miles before it enters the Mississippi River, making a geological spectacle famous in the St. Louis region. The river takes drainage from a sparsely populated watershed for more than half a million square miles, including ten U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. When it joins the Mississippi River, it forms the world’s fourth longest river system.
History of the Missouri River
For over 12,000 years, people have depended on the Missouri River and its tributaries as a source of sustenance and transportation. More than ten major groups of Native Americans have used the watershed, leading nomadic lifestyles and hunting bison in the Great Plains. The first Europeans encountered the river in the late 17th century, and the region passed through Spanish and French hands before it was purchased as part of the United States in the Louisiana Purchase.
At the time, explorers believed that the Missouri River was the Northwest Passage they had sought out to seek. It was believed to be a route from the Atlantic to the Pacific. But when Lewis and Clark went on their countrywide journey, they were able to confirm the mythical pathway “to be” was merely a legend.
By the 19th century, the river was used as one of the main water routes for the westward expansion of the United States. The growth of the fur trade in the early 1800s laid much of the groundwork as trappers explored the region and made new trails for acquiring goods and resources. By the 1830s, pioneers headed out west in covered wagons, then using steamboats that were chartered on the river. Settlers began to take over the native lands along the river, starting to some of the most longstanding and violent wars against indigenous peoples in America.
By the 20th century, the Missouri River basin was developed thoroughly for flood control, crops, and hydroelectric power. More than 15 dams were erected along the river, with hundreds more by the tributaries. Control infrastructure was also erected by the confluence with the Mississippi River. Meanders have been cut and the river channelized to improve irrigation techniques.
Today, the growth and development around the river has taken its toll on wildlife, aquatic life, and water quality.
The Missouri and Mississippi Rivers Confluence
Here you can find the Ted Jones Missouri State Park, as well as the Riverlands Corp of Engineers. Standing at the confluence, you can literally stand with the Mississippi River a few feet on one side and the Missouri River just steps away on the other side. Since the Missouri River is known for being a muddy brown color, it’s quite the spectacle to watch it join in with the clearer waters of the Mississippi River, which carries the water the rest of the way south through the United States.
Confluence visitors can observe nature and river traffic, fish, hike, and partake in quality photography. It is a quiet environment, with a perfect view of the sun setting over the Missouri River.
More St. Louis Related Pages
Busch Stadium – Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis – Fox Theatre – Gateway Arch –Lambert International Airport – Mississippi River – Missouri Botanical Garden – Peabody Opera House – Publicly Traded Companies in St. Louis – Soulard District – St. Louis Cardinals – St. Louis Zoo – Union Station