Starting in northern Minnesota, the Mississippi River flows by Minneapolis, St. Louis, Memphis, Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The fourth longest river in the world goes through or forms the border of 10 states.
The 2,340 miles of the Mississippi River are entirely within the boundaries of the United States, from the northern headwaters of Lake Itasca to the the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana. Because its waters served as a major means of transportation, cities grew and prospered along the Mississippi banks.
Between Minneapolis and St Louis, the Mississippi has 43 dams for recreation, power generation and locks. South of St. Louis, the waterway is called the Middle Mississippi and is free-flowing to Memphis, Tennessee. In the Lower Mississippi, many tributaries, like the Ohio River, flow into its waters, and at one point, the Mississippi is a mile wide. Thirty percent of the Mississippi's water is deliberately diverted into the Atchafalaya River in Arkansas, avoiding the main route down by Baton Rouge and New Orleans.