The Mississippi is the largest river in North America, rising in Minnesota and flowing 2,350 miles southwards before it empties into the Gulf of Mexico near New Orleans. The river has made a unique contribution to the history and literature of the United States, and with it major tributaries the Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee rivers, provides a unique opportunity to explore the heartland of America.
The upper section of the great Mississippi River extends from the head of navigation at Minneapolis/St. Paul past the mouth of the Missouri River near St. Louis, Missouri to Cairo, Illinois where the Ohio River joins it from the east. Flowing past steep limestone bluffs, this section of the Mississippi is characterized by alternating wooded hills, dramatic bluffs, agricultural land and towns or cities every few miles. This is the Mississippi of American legend. Some of the many famous historical towns you will see on route include Hannibal, Missouri, Burlington, Davenport and Dubuque, Iowa and Winona, Minnesota.
On the Lower Mississippi River, steamboats travel from Memphis to New Orleans on voyages that immerse you in Southern hospitality, charm and culture. The lower Mississippi is a meandering river, looping and curling cutoffs, oxbow lakes, and swampy backwaters. Beyond the confluence with the Ohio at Cairo, Illinois, the lower Mississippi swells to its full grandeur – sometimes a mile and a half from bank to bank. While it is a busy commercial shipping channel, it is also very remote except in the vicinity of the few cities on the river bank like Greenville and Natchez in Mississippi and Baton Rouge in Louisiana.
Ohio & Tennessee Rivers
The Ohio starts in Pittsburgh and flows for 981 miles (1,579 km) northwest out of Pennsylvania, then southwesterly to join the Mississippi River at Cairo, Illinois. The main cities along its banks are East Liverpool, Wheeling, Marietta, Maysville, Cincinnati, Madison, Louisville, Mount Vernon and Paducah. All along the scenic Ohio River Valley are peaceful rural vistas, quaint river towns and bustling cities that evolved as a direct result of their proximity to this early settlement route. The 652-mile-long Tennessee River is the Ohio River’s largest tributary. The Tennessee Valley is in the centre of America’s beautiful hardwood forest region and forested hills, bluffs and ridges line its course. From Knoxville, the Tennessee River flows southwest toward Chattanooga before crossing into Alabama. It passes Huntsville, Decatur and Florence before returning to Tennessee at Pickwick Lake. In Tennesse it passes the Shiloh Military Park and then flows into the Ohio River at Paducah in Kentucky.