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Monday, 6 June 2016

Mississippi River


The name "Mississippi" comes from an Ojibwe word misi-ziibi, meaning "Great River."

The 1541 expedition led by Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto  became the first documented Europeans to reach the Mississippi River. De Soto's 400 troops were confronted by the Mississippi River on May 8, 1541, which was an obstacle to the conquistador's mission. He and his men had to cross the broad river, which was constantly patrolled by hostile natives. After about one month, and the construction of several floats, they finally crossed the Mississippi at or near Memphis, Tennessee and continued their travels westward.

Discovery of the Mississippi by De Soto A.D. 1541 by William Henry Powell 

In 1673  French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet reached the Mississippi River and become the first Europeans to make a detailed account of its course.

An earthquake measuring around 8 on the Richter scale on December 16, 1811, caused the Mississippi River to flow backwards.

The first steamboat to travel the full length of the Lower Mississippi from the Ohio River to New Orleans was the New Orleans in December 1811. The New Orleans was a large, heavy side-wheeler with a deep draft. Her low-pressure Boulton and Watt steam engine operated a complex power train that was also heavy and inefficient.

PD-US, Wikipedia Commons
In the 1810s there were 20 boats on the Mississippi River; By the 1820s, with the southern states joining the Union, methods were needed to move the bales of cotton, rice, timber, tobacco and molasses. The steamboat was perfect and by the 1830s there were more than 120 travelling the river.

Until the 1840s only two trips a year to the Twin Cities landings were made by steamboats which suggests it was not very profitable.

The first bridge over the Mississippi River opened in what is now Minneapolis, Minnesota on January 23, 1855. The crossing is made today by the Hennepin Avenue Bridge.

A big part of the book Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is set on the Mississippi River. Twain also wrote a book called Life on the Mississippi, which had some stories about how he used to work on a steamboat.

A floating theatre called Showboat used to present concerts, popular plays, vaudeville and circus acts. Usually propelled by steam or transported by steam tug, these boats went up and down the rivers of the United States, especially the Mississippi River from early in the 19th century until the late 1920s. They ranged from crude rafts with an improvised auditorium and stage to large steamships with elaborate, well-equipped theaters. The company frequently included members of the family of the owner, with added travelling players as necessary.

The Showboat Branson Belle on Table Rock Lake, Branson, Missouri.

Torrential rains caused the Mississippi River to break out of its levee system in 145 places in 1927, causing the worst flooding in the history of the United States.

In 1930, Fred Newton became the only man to swim the Mississippi River – lengthwise (1,826 miles over a six-month period).

On July 29, 1940 butcher John Sigmund of St. Louis, Missouri, completed a 292-mile swim down the Mississippi River. The swim from St. Louis to Caruthersville, Missouri took him 89 hours and 48 minutes.

During the Great Mississippi and Missouri Rivers Flood of 1993, floodwaters moving down the Mississippi River combined to cover a total of 30,000 square miles at different times from August to October. Floodwaters caused more than $15 million in damages, killing 35-50 people.


The source of the Mississippi is Lake Itasca in Minnesota, near the border with Canada.

The beginning of the Mississippi River at Lake Itasca (2004). CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikipedia Commons

The Mississippi flows south for 2,320 miles (3,730 km)  through the US states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi.

Mississippi River from Fire Point in Effigy Mounds National Monument, Iowa, USA

The mouth of the Mississippi is in the state of Louisiana, south of the city of New Orleans. It then flows into the Gulf of Mexico.

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