The Mississippi River is a long river that flows from the north to the south of the United States through the states of Minnesota Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana to its mouth in the Gulf of Mexico in the Atlantic Ocean. The Mississippi River has an approximate length of 3734 meters, however it can be more extensive if we consider the Mississippi-Missouri system, which thus reaches a length of 6275 meters, which classifies it as the fourth largest river in the world.

The source of the Mississippi River is located in Lake Itasca (State of Minnesota) with an average height of 450 meters, downstream joins the Illinois and Missouri tributaries and later in the state of Illinois joins the Ohio River. In this way the structure of the Mississippi River can be classified into two parts which are called Upper Mississippi from its source to the union with the Ohio River and Lower Mississippi from the influx with the Ohio to its mouth.

Mississippi River Map


The hydrographic basin of the Mississippi-Missouri water system is one of the largest in the world, with an area of ​​3,238,000 km2, which represents 33% of the total territory of the United States. The main tributaries to this river basin are the Missouri River, the Arkansas River, and the Ohio River, which together drain most of the area corresponding to the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachians.

The flow of the Mississippi river is characterized by its dynamism because of the different conditions that its channel crosses, in this way the internal effects of each of its tributaries make the flow varied constantly according to the climatic seasons that affect each zone. Its average flow in the mouth area oscillates between 18,000 m3 / s and 50000 m3 / s although in the seasons of floods its flow can reach 70,000 m3 / s or as it happened during the flood of 1927 where its flow increased abruptly reaching 300000 m3 / s.

Emisystems of the Mississippi River

The Mississippi River and the riverine areas of its basin are considered the most important ecological niche of the North in the American continent, its waters harbor at least 260 species of fish which constitute a quarter of the total of the species that inhabit North America. In the upper sub-basin of the Mississippi River there are more than 50 species of mammals and 145 species among amphibians and reptiles, other species that are in the area of ​​influence of the Mississippi River are the beaver, the boreal raccoon, the river otter, the American vision, the red fox, the muskrat or the striped skunk, the coyote, the deer of Virginia, the gray squirrel, the striped squirrel, the flying squirrel of the south and the lynx.

Otters in the Mississippi River

Regarding birds, it is essential to mention that the Mississippi river serves as a trail for their migrations, where about 60% of the species corresponding to 326 types of birds use the river channel during their migration cycle.


Since pre-Columbian times, the Mississippi River was considered an engine for the development of the communities that inhabited the areas near this river. Today, the river continues to be a fundamental part of the economy of the United States, separating natural resources and services in each of the economic sectors.

Primary sector: The primary sector is one of the most benefited from the resources provided by the Mississippi River, and the activities that stand out the most along its course are river fishing and breeding of species such as river crabs, suribís and oysters in the states of the lower basin, the upper part, on the other hand, is characterized by logging and agriculture, as well as livestock that takes advantage of flood zones.

Secondary sector: Regarding the secondary sector, the use of the waters of the Mississippi River for the direct and indirect production of energy stands out, where on the one hand it is produced in hydroelectric power plants and also in coal-based power plants which use the waters to cool the electric generators. On the other hand, it is worth mentioning that along the river there are a good number of factories which make use of the waters to produce their respective products.

Dam in the Mississippi River
Dam in the Mississippi River

Tertiary sector: Within the tertiary economic sector, the use of waters for recreational purposes, tourism and commercial navigation stands out, so the activities of this sector that stand out are the commercial boat traffic that transports an average of 500 million tons per year and on the other hand the numerous state parks that take advantage of the natural reserves and plains of the Mississippi River to attract tourists and citizens of the region.

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