Nicknamed the “Big Muddy” because of its high silt content, the Mississippi River is the third longest river in the United States. The headwaters are located in Lake Itasca in Minnesota and the river eventually–after around 2,350 miles–empties into the Gulf of Mexico. But how wide is the Mississippi River?

Depends on where you’re at along the Great River (as translated from Native Americans who called the waterway “misi-ziibi”). In Northern Minnesota where it starts, the Mississippi River ebbs and flows between 20 and 30 feet, the narrowest point. And although it can fluctuate when it empties into the Gulf of Mexico, it’s about a half-mile wide at New Orleans 100 miles upstream.

At its widest point, the Mississippi River is 11 miles across! Near Grand Rapids, Minnesota, Lake Winnibigoshish is less than 50 miles from Lake Itasca, so the narrowest and widest parts of the river aren’t too far apart. Lake Pepin, at around two miles wide, is the widest navigable portion of the river.

On average, though, the Mississippi River is around one-mile wide. The widest parts of the river (aside from the lakes that are created) are where other major tributaries meet the Mississippi, such as the Missouri and Ohio Rivers.

Other Mississippi River Facts

Although widely regarded as the biggest river in the United States, there is some debate about what is the widest river in North America. Some measurements will say the Missouri River, others say the Mississippi, and still others will make the claim about lesser-known rivers. One thing is for certain: The Mississippi River has played an important role in North American life for centuries.

The Mississippi River Basin is believed to cover nearly 40 percent of the United States’ land area. Using water systems from Montana to New York, the drainage basin forms a funnel of sorts, ending up in Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico. It provides water, transportation, jobs, and much more across 31 states in total.

The basin is the third-largest in the world, behind the Congo River systems basin in Africa and the Amazon basin in South America. As far as length, the Missouri River is actually the longest river in North America, and the two form the fourth-longest system of rivers in the world. The Mississippi is 200 feet at its deepest point, near New Orleans.

There are more than 40 locks and dams on the Mississippi River, all located in the region (from Lake Itasca to St. Louis where it meets the Missouri River). There are no dams in the middle or lower Mississippi regions. The average river flow (output) is roughly 200 and 700 thousand cubic feet per second, which seems like a lot doesn’t it? But that is less than 10 percent of the Amazon output during the wet season (seven million cubic feet per second).

Other Interesting Notes

  • It took Martin Strel 68 days to swim the entire length of the Mississippi. That may seem like a long time, but it takes a raindrop 90 days to complete the 2,350-mile-long journey.
  • Around 375 different fish species live in the Mississippi River Basin, the most of any river system except the Yangtze system in Asia. Nearly 60 percent of all migratory birds (more than 300 species) in the U.S. will see the Mississippi River, too.
  • The Mississippi River has taken the main stage for several American writers, including Langston Hughes, Tennessee Williams, Mark Twain, and others. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn painted a vivid portrait of life on the Mississippi, both good and bad.

See The Mighty Mississippi For Yourself

Essentially cutting the United States in half (24 states to the West, 26 to the East), traveling the Mississippi is a great way to see many different states, cities, climates, and cultures. USA River Cruises offer Mississippi cruises split up by lower and upper regions as well as a cruise from St. Paul to New Orleans for the full Big Muddy experience!

All of our Mississippi River cruises include lodging the night prior and breakfast before you board your cruise to ensure you’re rested and ready to go! We provide transportation from the hotel to the boat so you won’t have to worry about rental cars or where to park your car.

Once aboard, you’ll be treated to cuisines from the region as our chefs use local ingredients to give you the true flavor of the area. There is the main dining hall as well as other venues for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and 24-hour room service if you just want to sit back and enjoy your well-appointed room.

At each destination point, we’ll provide buses for “Hop On/Hop Off” excursions so you can explore, grab a few mementos, and see the sights. Then it’s as simple as hopping back on the bus when it comes through to take you back to the boat.

For more information about any of our cruises, reach out and let us know what you’re interested in!