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Mississippi River

The Mississippi River is 2,300 miles (3,700 km) long. It is the largest river system in North America.

With its source Lake Itasca, in Itasca State Park in northern Minnesota, it is joined by the Missouri at Saint Louis and by the Ohio at Cairo, Illinois. The Mississippi drains most of the area between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains, except for the area drained by the Great Lakes.

It runs through, or borders, ten states in the United States -- Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana -- before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico about 100 miles (160 km) downstream from New Orleans.

The mouth of the river has shifted repeatedly over time. Since a canal was built in the early nineteenth century, the river has been seeking the Atchafalaya River[?] mouth, some 60 miles (95 km) from New Orleans. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains a massive system of locks to keep the river in its present course. (See http://www.ce.utexas.edu/stu/mcbraymc/ce385proposal )

Other changes in the course of the river have occurred because of earthquakes along the New Madrid Fault Zone, which lies near the cities of Memphis and St. Louis. Three earthquakes in 1811 and 1812, estimated at approximately 8 on the Richter Scale, were said to have temporarily reversed the course of the Mississippi. These earthquakes also created Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee from the altered landscape near the river.

The word Mississippi comes from the Ojibway name for the river, "Messipi", which meant big river.

In 2002 Martin Strel swam the entire length of the river.

Davenport, Iowa is the only city over 20,000 people bordering the Mississippi that has no permanent floodwall[?] or levy[?].

On May 8, 1541 Hernando de Soto became the first recorded white man to reach the Mississippi River (he named it Rio de Espiritu Santo). Louis Joliet and Jacques Marquette[?] began to exploring the Mississippi on May 17, 1673.

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