The longest and largest river in North America, the Mississippi flows 2,256 miles from its source in Lake Itasca in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. The river basin measures 1,857,840 million square miles, covering about 40% of the United States and about one-eighth of North America. Of the world's great rivers, the Mississippi rates third in length, third in watershed area and seventh in average discharge. Its value for commerce, recreation, and wildlife are a natural draw to the scenic byway. Named the "Great River" by Native Americans, the river has seen tremendous change since its origin millions of years ago.
The Mississippi River and the unique topography along the river were formed as a result of four great glacial stages starting between 1.7 and 3 million years ago. Of the four principle ice advances (the Nebraskan, Kansan, Illinoian and the Wisconsinan) only the first two had significant and direct effects on the topography and soils of northern Missouri. However, all the ice sheets contributed to the formation of the river. When the ice sheets formed, they blocked the original northward drainage pattern of the Ohio and Missouri Rivers and forced their entire flows south. Later, thousands of years of melting released a mass of water that gave birth to the current hydrologic system. Throughout the four periods of advancing and receding ice, the increased flow of meltwater cut the channels of the Mississippi River and its tributaries. Water, gravel, sand, and silt supplied the river with the material needed to cut a deep bed and to build enormous terraces, oxbows and a twisted braided channel.
Man-made changes have also altered the river. In the 1930's locks and dams were constructed on the Upper Mississippi to allow for navigation throughout most of the year. As a result the river one sees today is much wider and deeper than it was in earlier centuries.
We hope you will visit our small part of the river and enjoy its power and magnificence as it flows past Clarksville, Missouri.