The Mississippi ranks third in the world in length. The River is divided into three segments: the Headwaters, the Upper Mississippi River, and the Lower Mississippi River. The Headwaters is the reach from the source (Lake Itasca) downstream to St. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis, Minnesota, whereas the Upper Mississippi River extends from St. Anthony Falls downstream to the mouth of the Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois. The Lower Mississippi River flows from Cairo to Head-of-Passes in the Gulf of Mexico.

In Rock Island and the Quad Cities the river flows East to West as opposed to its normal course North to South.

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 long and just above the mouth of theDes Moines River at Keokuk, Iowa The Rock Island Rapids were between Rock Island and Moline Illinois Both rapids were considered virtually impassable

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

The Mississippi is never at generates tremendous force. The Mississippi travels south in a series of curves that can sometimes reach 180 degrees. The River and earth colide at these bends and create turbulent: currents can drive straight down to the bottom of the River, sucking at whatever is on the surface, creating holes often several hundred feet deep. The Mississippi is a series of deep pools and shallow "crossings" and the movement of water from depth to shallows adds still further force and turbulence. This is what makes the Mississippi so dangerous.


Speed: At the headwaters of the Mississippi, the average surface speed of the water is near 1.2 miles per hour, about one-third the speed that people walk. At New Orleans, in Feb. of 2003, the speed of the river was 3 miles per hour.

Depth: At its headwaters, the Mississippi is less than 3 feet deep. The river's deepest section is betweenGovernor Nicholls Wharf and Algiers Point in New Orleans where it is 200 feet deep

Volume: At Lake Itasca, the average flow rate is 6 cubic feet per second.
At Upper St. Anthony's Falls, the northernmost Lock and Dam, the average flow rate is 12,000 cubic ft/second.
At New Orleans, the average flow rate is 600,000 cubic feet per second

Length: The length of the Missippi is to pin down because the river channel is constantly changing. The staff at Itasca State Park at the Mississippi's headwaters, say the Mississippi is 2,552 miles long. The US Geologic Survey has said the length is 2,300 miles and the EPA says it is 2,320 miles long and then Mississippi National River and Recreation Area sets its length at 2,350 miles long.

Tributaries of the Mississippi

Big Black River in Mississippi

Red River in Louisiana

White River in Arkansas

Arkansas River in Arkansas

Ohio River in Illinois and Kentucky

Big Muddy River in Illinois

Kaskaskia River in Illinois

Missouri River in Missouri

Illinois River in Illinois

Des Moines River in Iowa

Skunk River in Iowa

Rock River in Illinois

Maquoketa River in Iowa

Wisconsin River in Wisconsin

Chippewa River in Wisconsin

St. Croix River in Wisconsin

Minnesota River in Minnesota



The Father of Waters

The Gathering of Waters

Big River by Johnny Cash

Old Man River

The Great River

Body of a Nation

The Mighty Mississippi

El Grande-by DeSoto

The Muddy Mississippi

Old Blue

Moon River- refered to in Breakfast at Tiffanys


Contributed by Jessika Jones

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Illinois Ancestors