Lower Mississippi River
Louisiana and Tennessee
American Heritage Rivers

The Mississippi River is perhaps the most renowned of America's great rivers. It is 2,340 miles long, making it the longest river in North America. And it drains 1.15 million square miles in the Midwest, the third-largest river basin in the world. For generations, the river known as the "Father of Waters" and the "Big Muddy" has inspired artists and writers, including Mark Twain.

Since 1682, when the explorer LaSalle claimed the entire Mississippi Valley for France, the river has been central to the economy of the region. Today, millions of people live in towns large and small along the Mississippi. A number of major cities grew up as river ports, including Minneapolis, St. Paul, St. Louis, Memphis, and New Orleans.

River Resources

The lower Mississippi is a foundation of the economy and culture of the American South. The stretch from the Gulf of Mexico to Baton Rouge supports the largest complex of port facilities in the world. Nearly half of U.S. grain exports enter the global marketplace through transfer facilities on the lower Mississippi. The Mississippi delta region is one of the richest farm belts in the country, its soils replenished by periodic floods going back centuries.

Four million acres of coastal marshes and swamps along the Mississippi represent 40 percent of the estuarine wetlands in the lower 48 states. These wetlands provide winter refuge for nearly 70 percent of the ducks and geese traveling the Mississippi River and Central Flyways, and support 40 percent of the nation's annual commercial harvest of fish and shellfish.

Community Action Plan

The American Heritage Rivers designation for the lower Mississippi covers the stretches through Memphis and from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. The city of Memphis is working to revitalize its downtown riverfront area by improving public access, preserving open spaces and historic sites, and creating new recreational opportunities. Plans from Baton Rouge to New Orleans include creation of a riverside community center, cleanup and redevelopment of riverfront property, preservation of cultural and historic sites, and development of a comprehensive plan to protect coastal resources.


Gerald White, Office of Mayor Marc Morial, New Orleans, LA (504) 565-8115
The Honorable Willie Herenton, Mayor of Memphis, TN (901) 576-6011

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