The Mississippi River is one of the longest rivers in the world, with a length of about 2,320 miles. The name comes from a Native American name that means "big river".
The source of the Mississippi is in the state of Minnesota, near the border with Canada. It then flows south through the middle of the USA until it reaches its mouth in the state of Louisiana, where it then flows out into the Gulf of Mexico.
The Mississippi has many large tributary rivers that flow into it which cover and drain much of the USA. Some of the major tributaries include: the Minnesota River, the St. Croix River, the Wisconsin River, the Illinois River, the Missouri River, the Ohio River and the Arkansas River.
It is predicted that the course or flow of the river near its delta will soon shift as its channel becomes blocked with sediment. This would be disastrous to seaports such as New Orleans but a series of man-made embankment and dams has held it at bay so far.
Steamboats were common on the river in the 1800s. They carried passengers and freight and were driven along by a large, wooden paddle wheel at the stern (back). Some special showboats were built that were barges disguised as steamboats that contained a theatre for performing musical shows in.