MISSISSIPPI RIVER (from an In dian word signifying Great Water, or Father of Waters), a river of the United States, forming with its tributaries one of the great water systems of the world.
From the headwaters of the Missouri, which is now recognized as the parent stream (the upper Mississippi being really a tributary), to the mouth of the Mississippi is a distance of 4,200 miles, the longest river course in the world. It drains an area of 1,246,000 square miles, occupied by the States lying be tween the Appalachian mountains on the E, the Rocky Mountains on the W., the Great Lakes on the N., and the Gulf of Mexico on the S. The Mississippi forms he boundary between the States of Min nesota (in part), Iowa. Missouri, Ar kansas, and Louisiana (in part) on the W. bank, and Illinois, Kentucky, Ten nesse, and Mississippi on the E. bank. There are several cataracts, the best known being the Falls of St. Anthony at Minneapolis, Minn., marking the head waters of navigation. The principal affluents above the entrance of the Mis souri are the St. Peter's, St. Croix, Chip pewa, Wisconsin, Rock, Des Moines and Illinois. Below the junction of the Mis souri, the character of the river, which is here about one and a half miles broad, and of a muddy nature, is due to its tributary. The united waters have only, from their confluence to the mouth of the Ohio, a medial width of about three quarters of a mile. The junction of the Ohio seems also to produce no increase, but rather a decrease, of surface; and the river, in Its natural state, is still narrower at New Orleans, which is only 120 miles from its mouth. About 190 miles below the confluence of the Mis souri, the Mississippi receives the Ohio, flowing, with its light-green stream, from the E., bringing with it also the
waters of its tributaries. About 380 miles below the influx of the Ohio, is the junction of the Arkansas and White rivers, which enter the main stream close to each other on the W. bank. Thence to the confluence of the Red river is a distance, S. by W., of 360 miles, meas ured along the stream; and below this latter point the river trends S. E., and enters the Gulf of Mexico, after a course of 335 miles from the Red river.
The lower part of the Mississippi is so much flooded after the rainy season that there is often a space of inundated wood land from 30 to 100 miles in width; large swamps and bayous, also, are found, dur ing the whole year, on both sides the river. The Mississippi is subject to in undations, often destructive in their ef fects. To secure the land from these inundations, immense embarkments, or levees, as they are generally called, have been formed along the Mississippi, and the canals or bayous through which its waters overflow. The white waters of the Mississippi do not readily mix with the sea, and may be distinguished from 9 to 14 miles from Balize. The facilities afforded by the Mississippi and its vari ous tributaries for internal navigation are unsurpassed. De Soto, 1541, was the first European who explored the Mis sissippi. He died upon it, and was buried in it. Marquette and Joliet in 1673, and La Salle in 1682, made explorations, the latter descending to its mouth.