The Father of Waters, the Mississippi River, is 2,600 miles long from its source at modest Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota to its delta near New Orleans, where it finally empties into the Gulf of Mexico. It is one of the longest rivers in the world, and with its many tributaries including the Ohio and the Missouri, the Mississippi watershed drains water from over 30 US states.
The Mississippi has long been an object of fascination to the American public, from Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer to big wheel turnin’ to home of the blues. The River was no less a fascination for early American navigators, who sought to understand its many twists, turns, and eddies as it meanders southward. To tame the river into a course for travel, transport, and commerce, it first needed to be mapped.
The maps in this case illustrate the earliest attempts to capture Old Man River in all its glorious length.
—Barb Mackraz, MLA Program Graduate Student, ’16