Yesterday I was flying to Florida from the west coast of the US and spent much of the time looking out the window at the landscape below. By keeping track of the little airplane icon in the plane’s tv screens I was able to identify major landmarks.
Along the way I spotted what I thought were some large rivers, until we went over the Mississippi. It was enormous! If you have seen it from the air you’ll know what I am talking about, if you have not seen it’s going to be hard to describe it. It look about 10 times as wide as the next largest river you see from the air.
I am really looking forward to taking some vacation somewhere along the Mississippi, if only to say I’ve seen it up close.
I live about five miles from the river; I always get a kick out of driving over it when the occasion arises. It’s also on the short list of things that I always try to take out-of-town guests to see when they come visit.
My mom grew up in Keokuk, Iowa, an old river town, and she’s always told me that the Mississippi is over a mile wide there. I couldn’t find a quick cite, but it’s definitely even more impressive than its 2200 feet in New Orleans. Having spent all my life thinking of the river as this huge monster thing, it was quite disconcerting to visit Lake Itasca, the river’s source, a few years ago and walk across the river at the identical spot the photo on that page shows.
Near New Orleans, the Mississippi tends to be about 1/3 of a mile wide, although there is one narrow spot only a bit over 1/4 mile wide and there is a broad bend just west of the Louis Armstrong Airport that is 2/3 mile wide.
At Keokuk, it is a mile wide, due East of the city, although that is part of a broader flood plain and as it completes the bend, crossing in front of the main throughfare in Keokuk, it is only about .4 of a mile wide.
In contrast, the Detroit River varies between .4 mile and one mile in width, although the Detroit River is much shallower than the Mississippi where the latter passes New Orleans (and, to be accurate, the Detroit River is actually a strait, just as its name indicates).
Of course, between Minneapolis and Memphis, the Mississippi is augmented by the Ohio River and Missouri River systems, as well as the St. Croix River, the Rock River, Illinois River, and a few others. When I was ten, I ran across the Mississippi and made the small boy’s point of hurling a rock across it. Of course, I was at the Lake Itasca headwaters at the time and could probably have accomplished the same feats had I visited when I was six.
I never really noticed the Mississippi, just never looked out the window at just the right time.
One of the coolest things I ever saw, flying to SF with a connector in Phoenix, flying into Phoenix I happened to look out and there was Meteor Crater, plain as day. I said something to the guy sitting next to me and he was equally impressed. Was quite large and easily identified and very cool.
When I was at Tulane I took this class in the engineering department about the history of the mississippi river relating to engineering. They showed us this video that started at the mouth of the river and went down…the…entire…river…it was time lapse but it went on for a REALLY long time. But up north it appears you can just hop across it. I remember the professor was wringing his hands the whole time about the construction of the levee and how we’re going to be so fucked…this was 2003…good thing he was wrong…
The biggest river in Spain goes “by” my home town (not through, as students love to kid unwary out-of-towner geography teachers about) and is almost as wide there as it gets. Friends of mine say that seeing the Mississippi made them cry because all of a sudden our proud Ebro looked tiiiiiiiinyyyyy!