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Explore the Mississippi River

Think You Know the River?

Q: Where does the Mississippi-Missouri River system rank among the world's rivers in terms of length?

A: Fourth, after the Amazon, Nile and Yangtze rivers.

Q: Which great American writer wrote a popular novel about a young boy and his slave who flee the boy's abusive father on a raft down the Mississippi River? Can you name the novel as well?

A: Mark Twain; Huckleberry Finn

Q: Where are the headwaters of the Mississippi River located?

A: Lake Itasca at Itasca State Park in Minnesota

Q: What is the origin of the name Mississippi?

A: The name Mississippi is derived from the Ojibwe word misi-ziibi ("Great River") or gichi-ziibi ("Big River").

Q: What nickname for the Mississippi River was immortalized in a song in the 1927 musical Show Boat?

A: Old Man River

Q: What percentage of North America's bird species use the Mississippi Flyway during migration?

A: 60 percent

Q: Approximately how many people rely on the Mississippi River for their drinking water?

A: Eighteen million people, living in 50 different cities, rely on the Mississippi River for their drinking water.

Q: What percentage of the continental United States is drained by the Mississippi River?

A: The Mississippi River watershed drains 41 percent of the continental United States.

Q: The Mississippi River is divided into two sections — the Upper Mississippi and the Lower Mississippi. What is the dividing point for the upper and lower portions of the river?

A: The confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers at Cairo, Illinois.

Q: What is the width of the widest section of the Mississippi River and where is it located?

A: The Mississippi river reaches its widest point of more than 11 miles as it flows through Lake Winibigoshish near Bena, Minnesota.

Q: Who is the first recorded European to reach the Mississippi River?

A: Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto became the first recorded European to reach the Mississippi River in May of 1541, in the vicinity of what is now the state of Mississippi.

Q: Starting in the 1930s, a series of locks and dams were built on the Mississippi River to maintain a deep channel for navigation. How many locks and dams were built and how deep is the channel they are designed to maintain?

A: 29 locks and dams were built to maintain a 9-foot navigation channel.

Q: How long would it take a raindrop falling into Lake Itasca to arrive at the Gulf of Mexico?

A: 80 days

Q: What recreational pastime was invented on the Mississippi River in 1922?

A: Water skiing was first attempted by Ralph Samuelson of Minnesota in a wide part of the Mississippi river between Wisconsin and Minnesota, known as Lake Pepin, in the summer of 1922.

Q: How many tons of sediment on average does the Mississippi River carry each day?

A: 436,000 tons

Q: The Mississippi River Delta in southern Louisiana is the largest expanse of coastal wetlands in North America. Approximately how big is it (in acres)?

A: Once more than 4 million acres in size, today the Delta encompasses about 2.5 million acres (twice the size of the state of Delaware). And we continue to lose 25 to 30 square miles of prime wetland each year.

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