Mississippi River

How Long Does It Take For Water To Travel The Length of the Mississippi River?

I have been fascinated with the Mississippi River since I learned of the “Great Loop.”

This drew my mind to wander. One of the questions I came up with was: How long does it take for water to travel the length of the Mississippi?

We’re going to talk about that today as well as get an in-depth look at the Mississippi River and the Great Loop.

But, first things first…

How long does it take for water to travel the length of the Mississippi River?

It takes 90 days (3 months) for a drop of water to travel the entire length of the Mississippi River from Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico.

That tiny drop of water will have to pass by 10 states and through 29 dams before it reaches the Gulf of Mexico about 100 miles downstream from New Orleans.


So, 2,350 miles divided by 90 days = about 26 miles a day.

For the math nerds out there, that’s 1.0879 miles an hour.

Mississippi River
Mississippi River. Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Once you calculate it like that, you realize how slow it is, but it’s only a tiny drop after all.

Where Does the Mississippi River Begin?

The Mississippi River technically begins at Lake Itasca although others may disagree because of the many tributaries that feed the lake. I followed the River from Minneapolis to Lake Itasca on Google maps and it was a chore!

The river gets tiny and “squirrelly” the closer it gets to Lake Itasca. It weaves through Minnesota like a lost duck.

But, if you stay persistent, you can follow the river through all the switchbacks until you finally see where it exits Lake Itasca on the north side of the lake.

About Lake Itasca

Lake Itasca is a small glacial lake, approximately 1.8 square miles in area. Located in southeastern Clearwater County, in the Headwaters area of north central Minnesota, it is notable for being the head-water of the Mississippi River. The lake is in Itasca State Park.


Other research shows that this is a relatively small lake with average depths between 20 and 35 feet.

Honestly, I expected the head-water of the Mississippi to be a large lake but I’m pleasantly surprised that it has such humble beginnings.

Where Does the Mississippi River End?

The Mississippi ends about 100 miles downstream of New Orleans where it dumps into the Gulf of Mexico.

If you’ve ever been that far south then you know that the river doesn’t make a “clean break” at the south end of Louisiana.

The river fans out and travels through a serious of marshes and low lands before it empties in the Gulf of Mexico.

What is the Great Loop?

The Great Loop is a system of waterways that takes boaters down the Mississippi, around the tip of Florida, up the Atlantic, across canals, into the Great Lakes and back to the Mississippi.

Anyone who completes the journey is then named an official ‘Looper.’


If I can convince my husband, we’ll be “loopers” one day!

Speaking of the Mississippi, don’t miss this:
[THE WILD] Louisiana Purchase State Park in Arkansas

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