The Mississippi River has helped to shape America’s history and commerce. The Mississippi River Valley is the third largest drainage basin in the world, covering more than 1,245,000 square miles. The river drains 41% of the contiguous United States, and includes all or parts of 31 states and two Canadian provinces. Waters from as far east as New York and as far west as Montana contribute to the flow of the river, while nearly 100 million people reside within the watershed. Major tributaries to the river include the Missouri, Ohio, Arkansas–Red–White, and Tennessee Rivers, with its major distributary being the Atchafalaya River through the Atchafalaya Basin.
As the nation’s largest river swamp, the Atchafalaya serves as an important distributary of the Mississippi River Valley diverting some 30% of the big river’s flood waters before they reach critical ports in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The water that is directed down the Atchafalaya River through the spillway flows through an ever changing landscape of hardwood forests, farmlands, swamps, and marshes on its way to the Gulf of Mexico.
“If we’re not physically connected, we’re environmentally connected to 100 million people in the Mississippi River Valley.” – Scott Angelle, Louisiana Lt. Governor