Here’s Every State the Mississippi River Runs Through

Written by Jude Speegle
Updated: May 1, 2022
Image Credit NPS/Gordon Dietzman / This image or media file contains material based on a work of a National Park Service employee, created as part of that person's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, such work is in the public domain in the United States. See the NPS website and NPS copyright policy for more information.
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The Mississippi River is essential to the United States and beyond- but do you know how many states the Mississippi River runs through? It is the fourth-longest river in the world and provides potable water to millions of people and crops. It crosses through ten different states, running its path through them all the way from Minnesota to Louisiana, more than 3,904 miles.

Today, the Mississippi River fuels commerce and travel and provides hydroelectric energy to many cities along its course. Speaking of its course, we will explore some of the states that this river passes through. At eleven miles wide, the Mississippi River will leave its mark on every state.

States the Mississippi River Runs Through

states the mississippi river runs through
The Mississippi River crosses through ten different states, running its path through them all the way from Minnesota to Louisiana, more than 3,904 miles.

NPS/Gordon Dietzman / This image or media file contains material based on a work of a National Park Service employee, created as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, such work is in the public domain in the United States. See the NPS website and NPS copyright policy for more information.

The ten states that the Mississippi River courses through are:

  • Minnesota
  • Wisconsin
  • Iowa
  • Illinois
  • Missouri
  • Kentucky
  • Tennessee
  • Arkansas
  • Mississippi
  • Louisiana

Two separate people have swum the whole length of this fantastic river, but that’s not what we will be attempting today. We will explore at our own pace and keep dry, learning about animals beloved in each state. Let’s get started!

Minnesota

States the Mississippi River Runs Through
Timberwolves are commonly found in Minnesota.

Jim Cumming/Shutterstock.com

The state of Minnesota is known for its bone-cracking winters, the cold filing in beneath your skin no matter the layers of blankets. There is no official animal for this state, but the timberwolf was once considered. The timberwolf comes in gray, brown, and white.

Timberwolves are predators integral to the ecosystem of North America. They help keep animal populations down, which in turn helps with biodiversity.

The state bird of Minnesota is the common loon, a bird known for its swimming and diving prowess. Their call is the herald of summer as it is very distinct and mysterious sounding.

Wisconsin

States the Mississippi River Runs Through
The American badger is the state animal of Wisconsin.

Coatesy/Shutterstock.com

Wisconsin is known for its cheese curds, as fried cheese curds are a delicacy explored almost exclusively in the state. The state animal is the American badger, which are small carnivores with an excellent sense of smell.

The state bird is the American robin, a common bird to find across the country. They are orange, gray, and black and are often the first to appear in the morning, seeking out that essential worm while blessing the morning with their beautiful songs.

Iowa

States the Mississippi River Runs Through
The state bird of Iowa is the American goldfinch.

Danita Delimont/Shutterstock.com

The origin of sliced bread is found in Iowa, along with the original red apple. So now that we know there is more to Iowa than corn and more corn let’s look into its state bird: the American goldfinch.

The American goldfinch is a beautiful, buttery yellow with black wingtips and a black forehead. This bird is known for living in weedy fields and floodplains so they can find their primary source of nutrition. But in Iowa, you might just glance into your backyard and spot one as they stay even through the winter.

Illinois

States the Mississippi River Runs Through
The state bird of Illinois is the Northern cardinal.

Rob Palmer Photography/Shutterstock.com

That white dot in the distance bounding away from you? That’s the white-tailed deer that is often found in Illinois. They are the classic depiction of elegant deer and have surprisingly good hearing and eyesight. 

White speckles the back of the brown animal with a lighter underbelly and white tail. They forage in the woods for their food and a popular game. They travel through the states the Mississippi River runs through as a vital water source.

The state bird is the Northern cardinal, that beautiful red-crested bird with a black face bird. Often the cardinal is seen as a spiritual message to many.

Missouri

States the Mississippi River Runs Through
The state bird of Missouri is the Eastern bluebird.

iStock.com/JackVandenHeuvel

Believe it or not, the Missouri mule is the state animal of Missouri. This animal is a cross between a mare of a draft breed (horse) and a mammoth jack (mule). Missouri mules are known for having a sweeter disposition while still maintaining their agility.

The Eastern bluebird is the Missouri state bird, and it is a beautiful array of blue, white, and tan. Seeing a bluebird is meant to indicate joy, hope, or good luck. They are rare to see, so it’s easy to understand why the sight of an Eastern bluebird could bring excitement.

Kentucky

States the Mississippi River Runs Through
The state animal of Kentucky is the gray squirrel.

iStock.com/Nigel Harris

In Kentucky, squirrels are relatively common, and gray squirrels grow pretty big with large bushy tails and grabby fingers. It makes sense that they would be the state animal of Kentucky when there are so many of them around.

The Northern Cardinal is the state bird of Kentucky, and it stands out with its intense crimson plumage. The cardinal is often seen but always brings the viewer great joy when spotted regardless.

Tennessee

States the Mississippi River Runs Through
The state animal of Tennessee is the raccoon.

iStock.com/cullenphotos

Raccoons, affectionately known as trash pandas, pepper the state of Tennessee with all its forests, trees, and people to occupy its attention with. They are the state animal of Tennessee, and they live in many states the Mississippi River runs through.

The mockingbird is the state bird of Tennessee and is known for imitating most other sounds it hears, such as the calls of other birds. They come in beautiful gradients of grey to white and can be considered a nuisance at times.

Arkansas

States the Mississippi River Runs Through
The state animal of Arkansas is the white-tailed deer.

iStock.com/Karel Bock

The white-tailed deer is back again, this time as the state animal of Arkansas. They paint more than just a pretty picture; they are integral to the ecosystems they thrive in. White-tailed deer are often the prey for larger predators like timber wolves, cougars, and coyotes.

The mockingbird also appears again, and it can mimic literally any sound it hears. It is believed they do this to appear attractive to other birds. So it is just meant to help them find a mate.

Mississippi

States the Mississippi River Runs Through
The state bird of Mississippi is the mockingbird.

Once more, we see the white-tailed deer and Mississippi’s state animal. They are more than just a vital source of prey because they also eat a lot of the undergrowth and weeds in nature. This helps plants find more room to grow. Though if there were too many deer, they could overeat all the foliage.

The state bird of Mississippi is also the mockingbird. It definitely makes its appearances along the Mississippi River, so it is no wonder that so many states it passes through claim it for themselves.

Louisiana

States the Mississippi River Runs Through
The state animal of Louisiana is the black bear.

Hollingsworth, John and Karen – Public Domain by U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Finally, there is a little bit of variety with the black bear as the state animal for Louisiana. The black bear lounges in copses of trees near the Mississippi River, waiting for the cool hours of dusk to go out and forage.

The brown pelican is the state bird and is known for being the only bird to dive straight into the water from more than thirty feet above. It loves to soar over and around the Mississippi River, watching the water for a fish to catch. These are just some of the animals that can be found all along the Mississippi River!

Read about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927.

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area
Mississippi National River and Recreation Area covers 54,000 acres of land
NPS/Gordon Dietzman / This image or media file contains material based on a work of a National Park Service employee, created as part of that person's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, such work is in the public domain in the United States. See the NPS website and NPS copyright policy for more information.
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About the Author

Jude is a writer both by trade and by heart. They have been writing since a very young age and have eight years of professional writing experience. Passionate about animals, Jude has three birds and three cats.

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