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Inaugural Voyages: Mississippi

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  • Memphis
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  • Mississippi
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THE GREAT RIVER A

THE GREAT RIVER A natural & cultural history of the Mississippi STRETCHING FOR 2,350 MILES,the Mississippi River flows south from its headwaters at Minnesota’s Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico. As one of the world’s major river systems in size, biological activity and habitat diversity, it is called the “Mighty Mississippi” for good reason. Bisecting America’s heartland, it serves as a natural border for 10 states and is home to 360 species of fish, 326 species of birds, 145 species of amphibians and 50 species of mammals. THE RIVER WAS FORMEDwhen the last ice age ended, about 10,000 years ago. Water from the melting ice sheet gathered in a vast network of north-to-south channels that carved a trough for rich sediment, which has made the Mississippi Valley one of the nation’s most fertile lands. NATIVE AMERICANShave lived along the Mississippi’s banks for thousands of years. First to use the river for commerce, the earliest Native Americans established a network of trade routes; later, large population centers, including a metropolis across from present-day St. Louis called Cahokia, were formed. And it was the Algonquian-speaking people who named the river: Misi-ziibi or “Great River.” AMERICAN HISTORYis bound with the Mississippi. When the Revolutionary War ended, the river became the new nation’s western border. That changed in 1803, when the Louisiana Purchase ceded control of the river—and the lands west of it—to the United States. New communities formed, supported by paddle-wheel steamboats that facilitated commerce and transportation. Control of this valuable resource was critical for both sides during the Civil War. CONTROLLING THE MISSISSIPPIhas challenged government leaders and the US Army Corps of Engineers for more than 100 years. A system of 29 locks and dams in the Upper Mississippi help facilitate barge traffic and regulate water levels. And on the more heavily trafficked Lower Mississippi, the river is restrained by levees and dikes to help control flooding. THE RIVER’S CULTURAL LEGACYhas inspired artists and writers such as Maya Angelou, Tennessee Williams and Mark Twain, whose depictions of the Mississippi are a constant companion to his iconic hero, Huckleberry Finn. Unique culinary traditions are also bountiful—from rivaling barbecue in St. Louis and Memphis, to Cajun and Creole cuisine in New Orleans. And the river’s impact on American music styles—including Delta blues, jazz, gospel, country, folk and rock ’n’ roll—can be felt deep in the country’s soul. TODAY THE MISSISSIPPIremains one of the world’s hardest-working waterways, generating more than 0 billion in annual revenue, supporting 1.3 million jobs and powering local economies. Low barges transport cotton, grain and other agricultural products from the heartland. And revitalized riverfronts along the Mississippi provide new opportunities for tourism and discovery. This mighty river, with its unique history, heritage and culture, offers the ideal backdrop for a modern era of American exploration. 12 VIKING.COM THE MISSISSIPPI’S MANY TRIBUTARIES

Milk Great Falls Missouri Billings Yellow stone Powder Cheyenne Missouri James St. Paul Minnesota Sioux Falls Wisconsin Milwaukee Mississippi Niobrara Iowa Chicago Des Moines Denver Platte Republican Omaha Des Moines Missouri Davenport Illinois Wabash Indianapolis Cincinnati Ohio Pittsburgh Cimarron Arkansas Canadian Smoky Hill Kansas Wichita Oklahoma City Kansas City Arkansas St. Louis Mississippi Memphis Ohio Louisville Green Cumberla nd Nashville Tenn e ssee Red Ouachita Yazoo Shreveport Red Baton Rouge New Orleans 13