Swimming Down the Mississippi River

Contributor: Ryann Maginn. Lesson ID: 12357

Have you ever floated down a river on a boat? How would you like to float from the top of the United States all the way down to the bottom? There is a mighty river with a long name and a long journey!


United States

learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • Which river is 2,300 miles long, making it the second-longest river in North America, and 11 miles across at its widest point?

Here's another hint: it has a name that's almost as long as its span!

That’s right!

We are talking about the mighty Mississippi River. Its long name is fitting for the length of this long river.

The Mississippi begins at Lake Itasca in Minnesota and travels south into the Gulf of Mexico. As stated previously, it is the second-longest river in North America and some consider it to be the third-longest river in the world!

Check out the map below to see where the river flows:

Mississippi River map

Image by Jon Platek, via Wikimedia Commons, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.


The Mississippi River has a lot of history that was important in shaping the United States and the people who live here. Many Native Americans, including the Santee Dakota, the Illinois, the Kickapoo, and the Ojibwe tribes, used the river for water, food, and transportation. The word Mississippi means great river.

In addition, the river was used in the American Revolution for many reasons. It was used as a way to send goods, tools, supplies, etc., to groups along the river. It also acted as a way to outline the U.S. In 1803, the Louisiana Purchase was signed and the Mississippi River became an important route for trading goods and services along its path.

The trade along the river was essential for the country and set the pace for future trade and traveling. Settlers typically traveled in flatboats, but in 1811, the steamboat New Orleans made a long trip along the river, which made it easier to transport more materials and people.

Today, the Mississippi is still used to transport goods. It is estimated that an average of 175 million tons of freight are shipped down the river each year. The river is also used for recreation purposes. People visit the Mississippi to enjoy activities such as boating, fishing, geocaching, canoeing, cruising, and much more!

Check out this Hamline University video that shows different parts of the Mississippi River: A Mississippi River Journey—Headwaters to Delta—in five minutes

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Download and print A Mississippi River Journey - Video Questions found in Downloadable Resources in the right-hand sidebar. Use this document to answer questions as you follow along with the video. Of course, you can pause the video as you answer the questions.

Explore the following websites to learn even more information about this amazing river. Take notes about interesting facts you learn while navigating the sites:

  • Do you think you would enjoy living in the 1800s when the Mississippi River became a major outlet for transporting goods, supplies, trade etc.?
  • Why or why not?

After thinking about these questions, move on to the Got It? section, where you will get the opportunity to create your own map.

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