The Mississippi River starts at Lake Itasca in north central Minnesota and travels 2,350 miles to its endpoint at the Gulf of Mexico. When combined with the Missouri river, it makes up the fourth longest river system in the world after the Nile, Amazon and Yangtze Rivers.
The Mississippi River ranges between 20 feet and 11 miles in width, with both of these extreme points in Minnesota. At the headwaters of the river, the water moves at an average speed of 1.2 miles per hour, although it speeds up to about 3 miles per hour by the time it gets to New Orleans. The surrounding watershed is the world's fourth largest, stretching from the Rocky Mountains to the Allegheny Mountains, including parts or all of two Canadian provinces and 31 states.