Maybe the world’s most romanticised waterway, Old Man River (that’s one of Mississippi River’s nicknames, so a bonus fact for you straight away), is the lifeblood of America – inspiring songs, novels, recipes, dodgy cocktails, and everything in between.
So, to celebrate this amazing river, we’ve pulled together 23 interesting facts, one for every 100 miles of the Mississippi (there’s another bonus fact, don’t we spoil you?), so sit back and enjoy our meandering Mississippi fact file!
Let’s get into the facts…
1 – It takes a single drop of water 90 days to travel from one end to the other. So, if it sets off at the start of the year, it’ll reach the other end as March concludes.
2 – Nearly 20 million people rely on the river for their daily water. That’s like the entire population of England descending on the Tyne for a drink!
3 – The name comes from the Ojibwe people’s moniker, Misi-ziibi, meaning ‘Great River’.
4 – As well as Old Man River, the Mississippi is also called Father of Waters.
5 – In 2012, during Hurricane Isaac, the river flowed backwards!
6 – The river starts off in Minnesota, and journeys all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico!
7 – It’s the second-longest river in the US – pipped to the post by the Missouri River.
8 – Often regarded as the father of American literature, Mark Twain was fascinated by the Mississippi River, with his tales of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn often featuring Old Man River.
9 – A big reason for Twain’s love stems from his time spent as a steamboat pilot on the river. A time he recounted in his memoir – Life on the Mississippi.
10 – The river’s banks are said to have inspired the incredibly decadent Mississippi Mud Pie – a decadent cake made of chocolate brownie, chocolate sauce, and chocolate custard. Two please!
11 – If that’s not naughty enough – how about the Mississippi Mudslide, a cocktail made of chocolate ice cream, coffee ice cream, milk and bourbon, and then topped with whipped cream, chocolate syrup, and marshmallows – talk about having a sweet tooth!
12 – The canoe speed record on the Mississippi was set by KJ and Casey Millhone, Rod Price, and Bobby Johnson in 2021. The quartet canoed the river in just under 18 days.
13 – The river’s widest point is a staggering 11 miles. That’s going to need a long bridge!
14 – The river is the home of water-skiing. In 1922, Ralph Samuelson decided to try his snow skis out on the water of the Mississippi lake, Winnibigoshish.
15 – Two people have swum the length of the Mississippi River. The first was Slovenian distance swimmer, Martin Strel, and it took him 68 days to complete the whole thing. US Navy veteran, Chris Ring then did it in 2015, taking 181 days.
16 – Don’t fancy swimming the length of the Mississippi? No problem, the Great River Road runs alongside much of Old Man River. Stretching 3,000 miles, the road was built in the 1930s, and takes roughly 36 hours to drive. This is the kind of road trip we could get into!
17 – Elvis Presley’s famed estate, Graceland, in downtown Memphis is only a stone’s throw from the Mississippi. Elvis was born in nearby Tupelo, and the whole area is known as Mississippi River Country.
18 – James Scott is currently serving a life sentence in prison for causing a flood of the Mississippi River. Although he claims he was trying to reinforce a levee in the river, and prevent the risk of a flood, his actions were found to have caused a dam to burst and cause a massive catastrophe!
19 – The river actually runs through 10 US states despite the name – Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
20 – There are over 130 bridges stretching over the Mississippi River, which is fair enough. At a max width of 11 miles, I don’t fancy wading through the waters.
21 – Over 500 million tonnes of cargo make its way up and down the Mississippi River every year. So, whilst it’s super romanticised and fabled, it’s genuinely a major part of the country’s infrastructure!
22 – According to Google data, Mississippi is one of the most commonly misspelled US place names, with frantic Googlers looking for Mississipi, Misisippi and Missidsippi. I think that rogue ‘d’ is a slipped finger, personally.
23 – A quarter of American fish species live in the Mississippi – at least 260! Nice to finish on a little fishy fact!
So, there we are, 23 (and two bonus) facts about the Mississippi River. I don’t know about you, but I fancy a trip down the Great River Road right now. If that’s a little out of reach, we have the second-best thing here at Tynemouth Aquarium – our Mississippi River exhibit! For more information and booking info, head here today!