51 Interesting Facts About Mississippi River

Last updated on June 23rd, 2022

36. Like many other bodies of water around the United States and the world, the Mississippi is subject to seasonal temperature changes. Importantly, being such a large body of water, the average temperatures vary along the length of the river during a given season.

37. During the winter, the average temperatures in the river’s basin ranges from approximately 13 degrees Celsius (55 degrees Fahrenheit) to -12 degrees Celsius (10 degrees Fahrenheit). These are the average temperatures from the subtropical climate in Louisiana South to the Subarctic Minnesota North.

38. During the summer months, average temperatures along the river can range from 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit) in Southern Louisiana to 21 degrees Celsius to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Fahrenheit) in Northern Minnesota.

39. In a similar manner to the variation in average temperatures, average monthly precipitation varies at different locations along the length of the river.

40. Average monthly precipitation ranges from less than one inch (25 mm) over the northern and western Plains to five inches (130 mm) to no more than 3 inches (75 mm) over the majority of the Ohio River section of the Mississippi.

Aerial photo of the Mississippi River
Aerial photo of the Mississippi River at Natchez, MS and Vidalia, LA. Photo © Anne Donnarumma

41. Over the eastern section of the basin, the climate of the river can be described as humid, while over the north-south band can be described as sub-humid.

42. The Mississippi provides hydroelectric power that generates electricity for several states. It also provides water to many of these said states.

43. As a significant hydroelectric power source, it is important to note that the Mississippi does not add to the pollution that causes negative impacts on the environment — like climate change.

44. Spain’s Hernando de Soto became the first European to sail on the Mississippi River in 1541.

45. Equally noteworthy is the fact that Louisiana, and by extension parts of the river, were French territory back in the 1700s.

46. After the French and Indian War in the 1760s, which the French lost, the French had to give up some of the land they owned.

47. After losing the war, the Mississippi River became the international boundary resting between territories belonging to the Spanish and the British.

48. Ownership and control of the river would go back and forth between various power brokers of the day (namely, European countries) due in large part to wars (including the American Revolution) and the various treaties that would often follow.

49. It was not until 1803 that the Mississippi River would officially become United States territory. This was made so following what was known as the Louisiana Purchase.

50. Although the early naïve settlers used the river for farming and carrying out their trade activities, it was not until the river officially became American territory that it started to develop into the major commercial trade route it is today.

51. Wars concerning the river would still continue even after it officially became American territory, however. For example, the river was a significant factor in the Civil War, as both North and South (the Union and the Confederacy, respectively) knew that the river would be a significant part of the national life where trade and travel were concerned.

In addition to being important for trade and commercial travel, thanks in large part to its rich history and the sheer majesty of its size, the river is today a major attraction for tourists and even travelers within the United States. The Great River Road makes visiting and viewing this wonder of the world that much easier and more pleasurable.

Largest river in the United States, in discharge, drainage area, or length

of mouth
(1,000 ft3/s)
(1,000 mi2)
source to
(name and
1.ArkansasArkansas41.0 (16)161 (9)1,469 (6)East Fork Arkansas River,
(Lake County).
2.Atchfalaya (excluding about 167,000 ft3/s diverted from Mississippi River).[1]Louisiana 58.0 (11)95.1 (11)1,420 (8)Tierra Blanca Creek,
New Mexico
(Curry County).
3.BrazosTexas(*) (- - -)45.6 (19)1,280 (11)Blackwater Draw,
New Mexico
(Curry County).
4.CanadianOklahoma(*) (- - -)46.9 (18)906 (16)Canadian River,
(Las Animas, County).
5.ColoradoMexico(*) (- - -)246
Mexico) (7)
1,450 (7)Colorado River,
(Grand County).
6.Colorado (of Texas)Texas(*) (- - -)42.3 (- - -)862 (18)Colorado River
(of Texas),
(Dawson County).
265 (4)258
Canada) (6)
1,249 (12)Columbia River,
British Columbia
8.CopperAlaska59 (10)24.4 (- - -)286 (- - -)Copper River at
Terminus of
Copper Glacier,
9.GilaArizona(*) (- - -)58.2
649 (- - -)Middle Fork Gila River,
New Mexico
(Catron County).
10.KansasKansas(*) (- - -)59.5 (15)743 (- - -)Arikaree River,
(Elbert County).
11.KuskokwimAlaska67 (9)48 (17)724 (- - -)South Fork Kuskokwim
River at terminus of
unnamed glacier,
Red River
Louisiana593 (1)1,150
Canada) (1)
2,340 (2) Mississippi River,
(Clearwater County).
13.Missouri[2]Missouri76.2 (6)529
Canada) (2)
2,540 (1)Red Rock Creek,
(Beaverhead County).
14.MobileAlabama67.2 (8)44.6 (- - -)774 (20)Tickanetley Creek,
(Gilmer County).
15.North CanadianOklahoma(*) (- - -)17.6 (- - -)800 (19)Corrumpa Creek,
New Mexico
(Union County).
16.NushagakAlaska 36 (20)13.4 (- - -)285 - - -Nushagak River,
281 (3)203 (8)1,310 (9)Allegheny River,
(Potter County).
18.PecosTexas(*) - - -44.3 - - -926 (15)Pecos River,
New Mexico
(Mora County).
19.PlatteNebraska(*) - - -84.9 (13)990 (14)Grizzly Creek,
(Jackson County)
20.PorcupineAlaska23 - - -45.1
Canada) (20)
569 - - -Porcupine River,
Yukon Territory,
21.Red[1]Louisiana56.0 (13)93.2 (12)1,290 (10)Tierra Blanca Creek,
New Mexico
(Curry County).
22.Rio GrandeMexico-
(*) - - -336
Mexico) (4)
1,900 (4)Rio Grande,
(San Juan County).
23.St. Lawrence
(—Great Lakes)
Canada348 (2)396
Canada) (3)
1,900 (4)North River,
(Lake County).
24.SnakeWashington56.9 (12)108 (10)1,040 (13)Snake River,
(Teton County).
25.StikineAlaska56 (13)20
Canada) - - -
379 - - -Stikine River,
British Columbia
26.SusitnaAlaska51 (15)20 - - -313 - - -Susitna River
at terminus of
Susitna Glacier,
27.SusquehannaMaryland38.2 (18)27.2 - - -447 - - -Hayden Creek,
New York
(Otsego County).
28.TananaAlaska41 (16)44.5 - - -659 - - -Nabesna River
at terminus of
Nabesna Glacier,
29.TennesseeKentucky68.0 (7)40.9 - - -886 (17)Courthouse Creek,
North Carolina
(Transylvania County)
30.WillametteOregon37.4 (19)11.4 - - -309 - - -Middle Fork
Willamette River,
(Douglas County).
31.YellowstoneNorth Dakota (*) - - -70.0 (14)692 - - -North Folk
Yellowstone River,
(Park County).
32.YukonAlaska225 (5)328
Canada) (5)
1,980 (3)McNeil River,
Yukon Territory,
Footnotes*Less than 15,000 ft3/s and therefore not among the largest rivers in terms of discharge.
[1] In east-central Louisiana 50 miles northwest of Baton Rouge, the Red River flows into the Atchafalaya River, a distributary of the Mississippi River. The discharge of the Atchafalaya River, as shown in the table above, includes the entire discharge of the Red River, but excludes all water diverted into the Atchafalaya River from the Mississippi River. Thus, the respective discharges represent drainage from corresponding drainage areas.
[2] The total discharge from the entire 1,250,00-mi2 Mississippi River system, including the Atchafalaya, Red, and Missouri River basins, average 651,000 cubic feet per second. For the Mississippi River system as a whole, the longest continuous river channel is from the Missouri River headwater source in Montana to the mouth of the Missouri to the Gulf of Mexico, a combined length of about 3,710 miles.
Table data source
United States Geological Survey
Table last updated