The Mississippi River watershed drains 31 US states, ranks the 4th longest river in the world, following the Nile, Amazon and Yangtze rivers, at 2,530 miles from Northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. The river borders and cuts through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
The Upper Mississippi starts at the headwaters of Lake Itasca, MN and runs 1250 miles to Cairo, IL, where it meets up with the Ohio River to form the Lower Mississippi. The Upper Mississippi will be the most difficult leg of the journey, as it has slower current, lower water levels and twisty, swampy characteristics. The current speeds up and the river opens up on the Lower Mississippi, however avoiding commercial barge traffic will be our biggest obstacle.
Mississippi River Watershed
The Mississippi River watershed is the fourth largest in the world, extending from the Allegheny Mountains in the east to the Rocky Mountains in the west. The watershed includes all or parts of 31 states and 2 Canadian Provinces. The watershed measures approximately 1.2 million square miles, covering about 40% of the lower 48 states.
- The Mississippi River and its floodplain are home to a diverse population of living things:At least 260 species of fish, 25% of all fish species in North America.
- 40% of the nation’s migratory waterfowl use the river corridor during their Spring and Fall migration.
- 60% of all North American birds (326 species) use the Mississippi River Basin as their migratory flyway.
- From Cairo, IL upstream to Lake Itasca there are 38 documented species of mussel. On the Lower Mississippi, there may be as many as 60 separate species of mussel.
- The Upper Mississippi is host to more than 50 mammal species.
- At least 145 species of amphibians and reptiles inhabit the Upper Mississippi River environs.
Source: (http://www.nps.gov/miss/riverfacts.htm; US Army Corps of Engineers)