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The Mississippi River Rolls On

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An online companion to my monthly article in the Outdoor Notebook:


The Mississippi Rolls On

By Mike Clifford


Wikipedia online describes the Mississippi River watershed as the third largest drainage basin in the world, exceeded in size only by the watersheds of the Amazon River and Congo River. It drains 41 percent of the 48 contiguous states of the United States. The basin covers more than 1,245,000 square miles, including all or parts of 31 states and two Canadian provinces.

Major watershed tributaries to the Mississippi include:

• Red River in Louisiana

• White River in Arkansas

• Arkansas River in Arkansas

• Ohio River in Illinois and Kentucky

• Big Muddy River in Illinois

• Kaskaskia River in Illinois

• Missouri River in Missouri

• Illinois River in Illinois

• Des Moines River in Iowa

• Skunk River in Iowa

• Rock River in Illinois

• Maquoketa River in Iowa

• Wisconsin River in Wisconsin

• Chippewa River in Wisconsin

• St. Croix River in Wisconsin

• Minnesota River in Minnesota

Some fun facts and statistics to consider regarding this magnificent watershed before we get to the heart of the matter and the purpose of this article:

In 1848, the Illinois and Michigan Canal was built to connect the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan via the Illinois River near Peru, Illinois. In 1900, this canal was replaced by the Chicago built Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to link the Great Lakes to the Mississippi. The canal allowed Chicago to address specific health issues (typhoid, cholera and other waterborne diseases) by sending its waste down the Illinois and Mississippi river systems, rather than polluting its water source Lake Michigan. The canal also provided a shipping route between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi.


The sport of water skiing was invented on the river in a wide region between Minnesota and Wisconsin known as Lake Pepin. Ralph Samuelson of Lake City, Minnesota created and refined his skiing technique in late June and early July of 1922. He later performed the first water ski jump in 1925 and was pulled along at 80 miles per hour (128 km/h) by a Curtiss flying boat later that year.

In the spring of 1927 the river broke out of its banks in 145 places during the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and inundated 27,000 square miles to a depth of up to 30 feet.


On October 20, 1976 the automobile ferry MV George Prince was struck by a ship traveling upstream, as the ferry attempted to cross from Destrehan, LA, to Luling, LA. Seventy-eight passengers and crew died; only eighteen survived the accident. This is the last major loss of life on the Mississippi River.


The Great Flood of 1993 is considered the most devastating flood to occur in the U.S. in modern history.

A river with such credentials steeped in history and folklore deserves to be protected, as it serves as the lifeblood of the Midwest for so many. According to Illinois’ Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn “The Mississippi River is not only a tremendous economic and recreational asset, but it is crucial to our state and country's identity.” A new initiative by the Lieutenant Governor has resulted in the creation of the Mississippi River Coordinating Council.


Modeled after the successful Illinois River Coordinating Council (IRCC), the Mississippi River Coordinating Council (MRCC) will bring together citizens, river organizations, and state and federal agencies to coordinate and implement policies on the intertwined environmental and economic health of the Mississippi River and its tributaries within the State of Illinois.

Citizen input and involvement is highly encouraged and necessary for the success of the IRCC and the creation of the Mississippi River Coordinating Council. One of the consistently dynamic portions of each quarterly meeting of the IRCC is the public comment section.

Members of the public have brought items to the attention of the IRCC, which resulted in victories for the Illinois River, and agenda items have sparked the creation of new programs or activities to benefit the watershed.


This involvement and interaction between state and federal agencies and members of the public will be a hallmark of the new Mississippi River Coordinating Council. Meetings will begin after January 1, 2007.

In setting out to create the MRCC, Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn asks for your ideas, comments, and concerns, and encourages you to participate in our on-line survey.

To access this survey, please point your internet browser to the following address:



This grand old river deserves to hear what you have to say, and is listening intently right this moment- so please consider giving her five minutes after all she has given in her glorious journey.


Until next time, I’ll leave you with this:


"We call upon the waters that rim the earth, horizon to horizon,

that flow in our rivers and streams, that fall upon our gardens

and fields, and we ask that they teach us, and show us the way."

American Indian, Chinook Blessing Litany





Photo credit: ecology.info



Photo credit: chbb.com



Photo credit: lmrcc.org



Photo credit: mississippiriverchallenge.org

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