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What Is The Main Source of the Mississippi River

What Is The Main Source of the Mississippi River

The Mississippi River is the second-biggest river in North America and one of the largest rivers on the entire planet. However, everyone who studies waterways would concur that rivers are a bit peculiar and might be challenging to determine their source. After all, only a few rivers have a well-defined course the entire time. So, what is the main source of the Mississippi River?       

Lake Itasca is the actual source of the Mississippi River. Several streams of water combine to form Lake Itasca, which is situated in the state of Minnesota. After decades of uncertainty and misunderstanding, Lake Itasca was found to be the Mississippi River’s principal source.

Read below for more information.

Where Does the Mississippi River Start?

Itasca Lake, located in a region of Minnesota that is abundant in lakes, serves as the start of the Mississippi River. This lake, which serves as the Mississippi River’s official headwaters or origin, is supplied by a number of tributaries. 

It’s interesting to note that this makes the Mississippi River, one of North America’s longest rivers, entirely American.

On a map, the Mississippi River would have a significant influence if you followed it from Lake Itasca to the river’s end. Over the course of its passage, the river defines the majority of the borders of around 10 states. 

That explains, at least in part, why certain states, like Illinois, have peculiar borders. This river is crucial for setting boundaries and trade, hydroelectric power, and the ecosystem of a sizable portion of the nation.

Which States Does the Mississippi River Pass Through?

The Mississippi River travels across ten states but receives tributaries from 32 states and some regions of Canada. The states through which the river passes are:

  • Arkansas
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Louisiana
  • Kentucky
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Tennessee
  • Wisconsin

The Mississippi River nearly cuts the United States in half from top to bottom, as anybody familiar with a map of the nation can notice. The river is so lengthy that it is divided into three segments when its features are discussed. These categories are known as:

The Upper Mississippi River travels from its headwaters to St. Louis, Missouri, where it merges with the Missouri River.

The Middle Mississippi River flows from the Mississippi-Missouri River junction to the Ohio River junction.

The Lower Mississippi River starts at the junction of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and flows into the Gulf of Mexico, where the river mouth develops.

Since the Ohio River supplies the most water volume of any river, the Mississippi River-Ohio River junction is very crucial. The Ohio River supplies most of the water that flows into the Mississippi River in New Orleans.

Although the Mississippi River is enormous, its breadth does not remain constant during its entire course. Some areas are many miles broad, and others are barely 20 to 30 feet wide. The river itself is always shifting.

How was the Mississippi Source Identified?

Many Minnesota lakes were considered probable sources by explorers in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Still, it wasn’t until a well-known Ojibwe named Ozaawindib brought Henry Schoolcraft to Lake Itasca in 1832 that Americans started referring to it as the Mississippi’s source. Schoolcraft gave the lake the new name Itasca, which means “real source,” to support his assertion. The Latin words “veritas” (truth) and “caput” (head) are combined to form the title.

Later, utilizing the empirical measuring equipment of the time, explorer Joseph Nicollet confirmed Itasca as the source.

That would have been the tale’s ending, but in 1881, a vain visitor named Willard Glazier declared that Glazier Lake was the river’s source. As the stories circulated, further scientific confirmations were needed.

Because of the region’s bowl-shaped geography, Jacob V. Brower’s examination of the area again pinpointed Itasca as the Mississippi’s source.

For more information about Lake Itasca, watch this video below:

Where Does The Mississippi River Begin? Lake Itasca, MN 4K video

Where Does the Mississippi River End?

In the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River comes to an end. It originates in Minnesota and moves from north to south, producing a delta as it enters the Gulf of Mexico in southern Louisiana.

Nevertheless, the Mississippi River’s outflow is evolving. Controlling where the Mississippi River flows through Louisiana is a fight humans may lose. The river now travels through Louisiana, passing via New Orleans. But the Atchafalaya River has been taking a greater portion of the Mississippi River’s flow for many recent years.

To help lessen the amount of water flowing into the Atchafalaya River, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constructed the Old River Control Structure, a floodgate mechanism. In 1963, that project was finished. The massive Mississippi River could still not be totally controlled despite the structure’s best efforts.

The Mississippi River could flow away from New Orleans if the mechanism is unable to keep it on its present course. This would seriously impact the economy and environment of this region of Louisiana.

An alternative would be for the water to exit by Morgan City, a city southwest of New Orleans. Experts will have to keep an eye on the Mississippi River’s flow to determine whether it will change its route in the foreseeable future.

How Long is the Mississippi River?

The length of the Mississippi River is around 2,340 miles. Originating in Minnesota and flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, this river cuts across the whole country of America. The river’s size fluctuates over its journey, nonetheless. When the river is 20 feet wide, it might be challenging to locate it on a map, but it is easy to locate when it is many miles wide.

The Mississippi River may arguably be ranked as the fourth-longest river in the world, based on how it is calculated.

It is nevertheless important to keep in mind that the figures may differ significantly based on the organizations in charge of supplying them, the measuring techniques employed, and the year the measurement was performed. 

For instance, the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area provide a figure of 2,350 miles, compared to the US Geological Survey’s estimate of 2,300 miles.


The Mississippi River is among the largest rivers in the United States, going all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Over the last few centuries, there have been many doubts about the true source of the Mississippi River. After much extensive research, the true source was finally found.