Mississippi River

The Upper Mississippi River flows about 1,300 miles from its source to the confluence with the Ohio River at the southern tip of Illinois. The Upper Mississippi River Basin (UMRB) encompasses 189,000 square miles within portions of 5 states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Missouri.

Over 30 million people live within the UMRB, the vast majority in urban areas.

More than 60% of the land area within the basin is cropland, the majority growing corn and soybeans.

Upper Mississippi River Basin Transportation History

Native Americans and Europeans have used the Mississippi River system to travel upon and transport goods for centuries. The primary goods shipped and the people shipping them have changed over time. During the 1600s and 1700s the French traded furs shipped mainly to Europe. By the mid-1800s to the early 1900s lumber was the main product coming south from Minnesota and Wisconsin to support U.S. population growth in the corn belt. Agricultural crops became the commodities of influence by the early1900s and in aggregate remain the most shipped products today. These agricultural products are typically shipped south while coal and petroleum products, other high-volume shipped commodities, typically flow north.

The most noteworthy period of human transport on the river was the steamboat era between 1820 and 1880 when numerous large, but fragile, wooden ships traveled both north and south between river ports.

Upper Mississippi River Basin Impoundment History

There have been many dams constructed within the river basin since the settlement of the region by Europeans, the largest portion being constructed by the 1930s. The damming of the Upper Mississippi River itself was largely accomplished during the 1930s. There are a total of 29 lock& dam projects managed by the US Corps of Engineers on the Upper Mississippi River with the most southern one located near St. Louis. There are also 6 major lock& dam projects on the Illinois River.

Dams Along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers

Sources: USGS, USACE, UMRBA , Immortal River by Calvin R. Fremling
Image Source: http://www.mvr.usace.army.mil/Brochures/MeetingTheChallenge.asp