The Mighty Mississippi is the centerpiece of the second largest watershed in the world, convering over 1.2 million square miles, and includes tributary rivers from 33 states and two Canadian provinces. It begins as a tiny brook and 2,350 miles later empties into the Gulf of Mexico. Millions of people each year use the Mississippi River for recreation, but the Mississippi is, and always has been a working river. An average of 175 million tons of freight are shipped each year on the Upper Mississippi. The 29 lock and dams on the Upper Mississippi make that shipping possible, allowing for navigation from St. Louis, Missouri, to Saint Paul, Minnesota, a total distance of 854 miles. 

There are records of human habitation along the Mississippi river that date back more than five thousand years. Four thousand years ago, American Indians in the Lower Mississippi Valley began establishing communities with large, elaborate earthen architecture. Much later around 1000 A.D., larger and more elaborate complexes of mounds were constructed by a culture referred to as Mississippian. Typically, these towns contained anywhere from 1 to 20 mounds, which often were used as platforms for temples or the residence of leaders. 

The Ojibway Indians of northern Minnesota called it "Messipi" or "Big River," and it was also known as the "Mee-zee-see-bee" or the "Father of Waters." European explorers who mapped all the river's channels and backwater areas called it a "gathering of waters." The Native Americans of different tribes who originally lived near the Mississippi and used it for canoe transportation, hunting and fishing often viewed the great river as the center of the universe. 

The Mississippi river basin was formed by glaciers, moving and melting millions of years ago,which left in their wake sometimes miles-wide floodplains, that still fill up occasionally, covering towns, roads, farms, and everything else that might stand in the way of its mighty waters.

The Mississippi Interactive Expedition 
To learn more, click here. 
 
Mississippi River Resources 
Click here for resources to help you study the Mighty Mississippi.
Mississippi River Online Guests

The Mississippi Adventure connects you to guest experts who'll help you with your study of rivers. Past guests have included Lee Hendrix, a river boat pilot and story teller, Barbara Liukkonen, with the Rivers council of Minnesota, J. Charles Fox , with the EPA, John Barry, a noted author and faculty member at Tulane University, and Edwin Lyon, an archaeologist with the Army Corps of Engineers in New Orleans, LA. 

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Center for Global Environmental Education
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