Top 10 Longest Rivers In The World

Last updated on April 12th, 2022

4. The Mississippi-Missouri: the world’s fourth longest river system

The Mississippi-Missouri River is one of the largest river in the world in terms of size, biological productivity and habitat diversity. It is also in the world’s top list of the most significant commercial waterways and a great migration route for birds and fishes in North America.

1. The Mississippi-Missouri River is a major recreational resource for hunters, birdwatchers, boaters, canoeists and anglers and offer exciting outdoors opportunities. The most deepest place on the river is 200-feet deep and is near Algiers Point in New Orleans.

2. Compared to other rivers in the world, the Mississippi-Missouri River ranks fourth in terms of length, following the Nile, the Amazon, and the Yangtze Rivers. The river covers more than 40% of the continental United States.

Hot air balloons flying over the Mississippi River toward Louisiana at Natchez, MS
Hot air balloons flying over the Mississippi River toward Louisiana at Natchez, MS. Photo © Anne Donnarumma |

3. The average surface speed at the headwaters of Mississippi-Missouri River is 1.2 miles every hour, but at the New Orleans the river flow is different, going for 3 miles per hour.

4. The surface speed of the river changes with an increase in water levels or a fall and where the river narrows or widens, becomes shallow or a combination of these factors.

The Mississippi on map

5. It takes at least 90 days for water to leave the river’s source; Lake Itasca to reach the Gulf of Mexico as the river releases more than 4 million gallons of water into the Gulf of Mexico every second.

6. The Mississippi-Missouri River is a great source of daily water supply to millions of people. In fact, over 50 cities depend on the river for freshwater.

7. The Mississippi basin has supported agricultural activities for about 200 years and changed the hydrologic cycle and energy budget of the area resulting into 92% of the nation’s agricultural exports.

8. About 60% of all grains exported from the US is shipped on the Mississippi-Missouri River via the New Orleans Port and the Port of South Louisiana.

 a freshly caught small mouth bass i
A freshly caught small mouth bass. Image via shutterstock/CLP Media

9. There are about 260 fish species, 25% of all species of fish in North America living in the Mississippi-Missouri River and the upper Mississippi hosts over 50 mammal species, 326 species of birds and 145 species of amphibians.

10. The river’s widest region is more than 11 miles across, where it forms Lake Winnibigoshish near Bena Minnesota. Within the shipping channel of the river, the widest region is Lake Pepin, and the channel is two miles wide.

11. Mississippi-Missouri River’s Lake Winnibigoshish is popular for the invention of water-skiing by New York inventor, Fred Waller after Ralph Samuelson the first inventor failed to patent the invention.

12. At the Mississippi-Missouri River is where two people swum the entire length of river in 68 days and 181 days. All these happened in the year 2002 and 2015.

Map of the Mississippi River Basin
Map of the Mississippi River Basin. Image credit – Shannon1/CC BY-SA 4.0

13. The Mississippi-Missouri River flows through ten states of America, including Minnesota, Illinois, Tennessee, Mississippi, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Arkansas and Louisiana.

14. You can drive along the Mississippi-Missouri River through the Great River Road that was built in 1938 and runs through 110 counties. The scenic roadway is a federally designated National Scenic Byway a drive that takes approximately 36 hours to complete.

15. The Mississippi-Missouri River is divided into three sections. The first is the Upper Mississippi, from Lake Itasca connecting with the Missouri River; the Middle Mississippi, which is downriver from the Missouri to the Ohio River; the Lower Mississippi, which flows from Ohio River mark to Gulf of Mexico.

This is an aerial view of Mississippi River Bridge, taken from downtown New Orleans.
This is an aerial view of Mississippi River Bridge, taken from downtown New Orleans. Photo © Raydevlin |

Mississippi river – quick facts and statistics

NameThe Mississippi - Missouri
SourceLake Itasca (Itasca State Park, Clearwater County, MN)
MouthGulf of Mexico (Pilottown, Plaquemines Parish, LA)
Length6275 km (3,902 miles)
Widthup to 11 miles
Depthup to 200 feet
Basin size1,151,000 sq mi (2,980,000 km2)
Direction of flownorth to south
CountriesUnited States
StateMinnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana
Did you know?1. The Mississippi River is the second longest river in North America.

2. The Missouri River, a tributary of the Mississippi River, is about 100 miles longer.

3. The Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin (MARB), which encompasses both the Mississippi and the Atchafalaya River Basins, is the third largest in the world, after the Amazon and Congo basins.
For further reading1.
Table last updatedDecember 6, 2021

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