The Mississippi — America’s greatest river
The name of America’s greatest river, the Mississippi, is made from two American Indian words: misi (great) and sipi (water). It is 3,778 km long and flows from the US state of Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. Its tributary, the Missouri River, is 3,767 km, and together they form the largest river system in the world.
Hundreds of years ago, Native Americans lived along the ‘Father of the Waters’ and used the river for trade and travel.
The first Europeans to reach the river were Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto and his party in 1541.
Until 1803 the Mississippi River was the western boundary of the United States; the land beyond belonged to France and Spain. The French controlled a large territory known as Louisiana (after King Louis XIV of France). The ruler of France at this time was Napoleon, and Americans were afraid that he might send French soldiers and settlers to Louisiana. President Thomas Jefferson decided to buy the land. Luckily, Napoleon was about to go to war with Britain and needed money. For fifteen million dollars he sold Louisiana to the United States!
The Mississippi River starts at Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota. It is a pristine, sparkling place, and the waters from which it comes are very clear and cold. The river is so narrow here that you can walk across it in 15 steps.
The river becomes quite large by the time it reaches the Twin Cities — Minneapolis and St Paul. Minneapolis is on one side of the Mississippi River and St Paul is on the other side.
The city of St Louis was known as the ‘Gateway to the West’, and its Gateway Arch is a symbol of this. It’s the tallest monument in America.
Hannibal is just a little town on the Mississippi River but it is known all over America. Young Sam Clemens (Mark Twain) lived here from 1844 until 1853. People say that many characters in his books were copied from the boys and girls he knew in his childhood. The Mississippi captured Mark Twain’s heart, and even influenced his pen name. Samuel Clemens took this name from the call of the men on the steamboats as they marked the depth of the water with the words mark twain. Mark Twain means ‘we are in safe water.’ Mark Twain created a work called “Life on the Mississippi”. He named the river «the world’s first cheat» because its route is very tortuous and unpredictable.
The great Mississippi River ends in the Gulf of Mexico after travelling the full length of the United States. Around its mouth grew New Orleans, the home of jazz and one of the most unusual cities in the US.
Plain Mississippi River has a very turbulent character: heavy floods occur in spring. So, the biggest flood that led to the disaster happened in 1927. It was called the «Great Flood». Great floods also occurred in 1993 and in May 2011.
The river forms St. Anthony waterfall, which is depicted on the emblem of the State of Minnesota.