The famous great river Mississippi is the longest in the United States. Due to its unique characteristics, this river has made others interested in learning about its historical aspects, mechanism, and processes in nature so far.

The exciting part of this river is that it significantly contributes to American history when associated with trade and transportation.

Being the most extensive water highway, it has played a crucial role in commercial development, providing various services and employment to millions and pure and fresh drinking water

The indigenous and the privileged communities who depend on this river consider it their major lifeline. The second-longest river in North America is categorized into three major divisions: upper Mississippi, middle Mississippi, and the lower Mississippi. 

The Mississippi River’s primary source is lake Itasca situated in the northern part of Minnesota, which provides water for the fourth-longest river in the world.

Regarding biodiversity, it harbors multiple species, including fish, birds, mammals, and reptiles. This abundance indicates how rich and lush the Mississippi river is in biological productivity.

Table of Contents

Journey of Water

Sunset - Mississippi River water
Sunset view of Mississippi River (source)

Numerous research findings have depicted that this river flows 2340 miles from the initiating point to the end. But the length of the Mississippi river varies according to the several research findings and the studies being carried out targeting the Mississippi river. 

This river takes around 90 days for the water drop to travel the whole length of the Mississippi River, considering the various points of the route. As fed the Mississippi river by the lake Itasca, the lake has six cubic feet per second flow rate. 

In general, the duration of the water drop to reach the Mississippi River from its original point (the lake Itasca) to the Gulf of Mexico is three months.

The vital reason behind this fascinating natural phenomenon is that the Mississippi River is the longest in North America.

Influencing Factor behind Water Flow

Multitudinal factors have been identified so far in several studies. The critical factors which do make influence the time frame of the Mississippi river distance traveling are enlisted below:

Water speed in various water sections

The average water speed of the river is believed to be 1.2 miles per hour, basically in the spring season. And in regards to New Orleans, the water speed is detected as 3 miles per hour. 

Water may accelerate when torrential rainfall and rainfall-induced floods occur in the rainy season. It can create differences in the water speed since water washes away all the materials during the flood, thereby creating massive destruction of property and human lives.

The research also reveals that once the Mississippi River meets the Ohio and Missouri river, it does increase its speed of flowing by three times rather than the original river flow.

Narrowing and widening of the Mississippi river

Boat in the river - Mississippi river water
A red boat on board a section of the Mississippi River (source)

Several causes may occupy a place in the case of narrowing and widening of the Mississippi River. The river narrows and widens when severe impacts are induced by the haphazard movement of the gravel bed, which causes the river channels to divert their way. Once the Mississippi river widens, the river gets eroded, thereby causing headward erosion.

Alteration of the river volume

It’s inevitable that once the volume of the Mississippi river increases due to the sudden natural mechanism and the processes being occupied, it will take longer for the water drop to travel and cover the entire river. 

Several drastic changes can be visualized once the river gets altered channels and is far from its original tracks. Until and unless the river volume becomes lesser, the time travel of the water drops in this river increases accordingly. 

Things to know while visiting the Mississippi river

Mississippi River at night - Mississippi river water
Memphis Bridge at night (source)

Many set up is a must before visiting the Mississippi River; a precaution is always foremost when it comes to the name of human safety.

The locks and dams infrastructure developed to maintain this river’s navigation channel can be a severe hazard to the small crafts. Inexperienced canoers can be in danger since they have no information regarding the risky possibilities while traveling on the river.

In the opening of the Gulf of Mexico and the lake Itasca, the high-speed water could be very hazardous as the rapid water current in the river could seriously wash away the sharp objects in the canoe and may direct the visitors. 

From the biological productivity point of view, large mammals and reptiles reside in the Mississippi River. When humans encounter the bulk sharks, bears, and alligators, they may lose their lives within a second. 

The other critical wildlife threat posed to human lives is the widespread presence of the tiny mosquito in the Mississippi River, which may carry the West Nile virus and lead to pandemic devastation throughout the globe once spread around.

Mississippi river supportive research findings

In a recent study of 2021, it is insisted that the water level of the Mississippi River has been gradually lowering, possibly due to the binding effect of climate change on the river. 

The water levels appear very low, especially in the northern part of Minnesota. Once the river gets narrowed to more comprehensive, severe impacts on the transportation facilities can be challenging. 

Since the natural river mechanism is rise and fall, it does alter from time to time. Due to the dry summer, there have been significant changes in precipitation trends and patterns.

Aside from climate change, the precipitation and temperature swings have seriously impacted the water levels.

Numerous scientific experiments and modeling of the climate change impacts have projected the future scenario that in the upcoming future it is more likely to cause the dry state targeting the region of Minnesota and Wisconsin. 


The Mississippi River is the pride throughout the globe, but it bears colossal importance in the natural river resource. It does take a long time for the water droplets to travel the entire Mississippi River. 

Due to climate change, the drastic alteration in the river has been projected from several future climatic projections and the models being approached. 

It’s solely upon us to think about the dire issue of this river and track out the best solution to conserve and protect our pride so that we can succeed in preserving our dignity and halt the effects of climate change on this river. 

(Last Updated on June 24, 2022 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Kalpana Ghimire holds a post-graduate degree in Environmental Science from Nepal. She possesses numerous research experiences working in water pollution, community forestry, environment conservation status, and wildlife ecology. She was an internee in the Department of Environment (EIA monitoring and auditing section) under the Government of Nepal. Kalpana Ghimire is an avid traveler, an enthusiastic wildlife researcher, and has a huge passion for working in the environment sector. She loves far traveling to the natural areas, conducting field wildlife research and reading the novels.