The Mississippi River is the second-longest river in North America, and has had a major influence on the founding of the United States. The river starts at Lake Itasca in Minnesota and ends in Southern Louisiana at the Gulf of Mexico, making New Orleans a major port city. It is about 2,350 miles long.
The Mississippi River was first home to Native Americans until the arrival of European settlers in the 16th century. It then acted as a barrier for claimed territory from Spain, France, and the early United States. The river was a major factor in the fight for Louisiana territory. It was and is still a major transportation artery crucial to the economy and trade, as it is the last port before the Gulf of Mexico. It ends about 100 miles downstream from New Orleans.
The river reaches 191 feet deep in the French Quarter- the maximum depth of the entire river. Because the current is so strong and the water is muddy, you cannot swim in it.
The Port of New Orleans is one of the busiest ports in the world. It was established in 1717 when France controlled Louisiana. It began as an export for tobacco and indigo, and an import for rice and vegetables, but later grew as a major port for cotton. Steamboats, cargo ships, tankers, and barges are notably seen along the water still today. Approximately 175 million tons of freight are transported along the river each year. Today, it serves as a major port for shipping everything from oil and cars to coffee and poultry. Since the early 20th century, levees, locks, and dams have been built along the water as well.
The Mississippi River remains a major part of the New Orleans landscape. Whether you’re jogging beside it in the Bywater, watching the steamboats cruise in the French Quarter, picnicking on the levee Uptown or exploring Old Algiers, the river is hard to miss.
Benches, public art and events line the water making it easier to enjoy. Woldenberg Park is home to several festivals such as Fried Chicken Festival, French Quarter Fest and the occasional NOLA Navy Week, as well as places to sit and enjoy the breeze. It is the prime spot to view fireworks on the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve. It is located just across the street from Jackson Square.
A visit to the Audubon Aquarium or the Outlet Collection at the Riverwalk will put you alongside the waterway as well.
The Downriver Festival takes place every September to celebrate the cultural, economic and environmental impact and influence of the Mississippi River through live music, food, tours, and educational activities. From the history of the river to the future of our coast, the informative festival highlights it all.
Head Uptown and enjoy a day at The Fly. This local hangout is known for picnics, outdoor activities, barbecues, crawfish boils and relaxing.
Just across the river is Algiers Point, home to quaint local bars, restaurants, and shops. When the ferry is in service, take a quick cruise over. Otherwise, travel over the Mississippi River Bridge and get exploring. See our itinerary here. During the holidays, don’t miss bonfires on the levee.
The Riverfront Streetcar is great for sightseeing. It has six vintage red streetcars that can take you to various attractions along the river.