How Deep Is The Mississippi River?

how deep in the Mississippi River

Written by Cindy Rasmussen

Updated: July 18, 2023

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The mighty Mississippi River runs from Minnesota down the center of the U.S. to Louisiana where it empties into the Gulf of Mexico. While it is not the longest river in North America, it comes in second, running 2,340 miles.

The habitats along the river are frequented by otters, beavers, great blue herons, white pelicans, and the majestic bald eagle. Many fish make the Mississippi their home including catfish, walleye, carp, and garfish.

Some fish prefer deeper waters like crappie, bass, and walleye, so how deep is the Mississippi? Is it the same depth all the way down?

Can you walk across the Mississippi? Is it deep enough for cargo ships? Let’s find out.

The Mississippi River flows all the way from Minnesota to Louisiana.


How Deep Is The Mississippi River At The Start (Headwaters)?

The headwaters of the Mississippi River begins in Lake Itasca in Minnesota, which is around 200 miles NE of the Twin Cities. At this point, the river begins as a small 20-30 foot wide river (your average living room is 16 x 20 feet). At the headwaters, the Mississippi River is only about 18 inches deep.

The Mississippi River is only 18 inches deep at the headwaters of Lake Itasca in Minnesota.


The mighty Mississippi River runs from Minnesota down the center of the U.S. to Louisiana where it empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

Where is Lake Itasca Located on a Map?

Lake Itasca is in Clearwater County in the Itasca State Park. There are several tributaries that flow into this glacial lake. A glacial lake is one that was formed when a glacier, formed during the Ice Age, erodes the soil, then melts and fills the depression it created.

Can You Walk Across The Mississippi?

Yes, at the headwaters you can walk across the Mississippi. With a depth of only 18 inches and a width about the size of a living room, you can easily pull your pant legs up and wade across (add that to your bucket list!).

Where Is The Widest Part Of The Mississippi?

The widest part of the Mississippi is at Lake Winnibigoshish in Minnesota where the river is 11 miles wide. It would take around 3 ½ hours to canoe across the river at this point.

What Is The Average Depth Of The Mississippi?

The average depth of the Mississippi River is 9-12 feet deep. The deepest part is 200 feet near Algiers Point in New Orleans, Louisiana.

©Milen Mkv/

You may be surprised to discover that the Mississippi is only an average of 9-12 feet.

Where Is The Deepest Part Of The Mississippi River?

The deepest part of the Mississippi is near Algiers Point in New Orleans, Louisiana. Depending on rainfall levels and water flow from upstream, it is around 200 feet deep. While that’s very deep, it’s not close to being the deepest river in the world which is the Congo River in Africa.

Where is Algiers Point Located on a Map?

Algiers Point is across the Mississippi River from the famous French Quarter and Canal Street in downtown New Orleans. Established in 1719, it was the city’s second neighborhood and an important part of the port. It can be reached from New Orleans by ferry or by car over the Crescent City Bridge.

Where Is The Shallowest Part Of The Mississippi?

The shallowest part of the Mississippi is at the headwaters where it is 18 inches deep. A quick pull of the tape measure puts that at knee-deep for the average person.

How Long Is The Mississippi River?

The Mississippi River is 2,350 miles long, slightly shorter than the Missouri River which is the longest river in the United States when measured by the river’s stem length. When measuring the Mississippi by its total system length (which combines the Mississippi and Missouri lengths) the river system measures 3,902 miles.

How Deep Is The largest Lake Along The Mississippi River?

Lake Pepin in Lake City Minnesota is the largest lake along the Mississippi River. It is around 60 feet deep.

© Nichols

Lake Pepin is the largest lake in the Mississippi. It is located in SE Minnesota and at the deepest point of the lake is around 60 feet deep. Lake Pepin is 21 miles long and a little over 1 ½ miles wide with 89 different species living in it like smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, crappie, perch, walleye, northern pike, and sauger. 

Is The Mississippi River The Deepest River In The United States?

No, but it is close. The deepest river in the United States is the Hudson River which runs through New York State and empties into the Atlantic in the New York Harbor.

The Hudson River is around 216 feet deep. Common fish in the Hudson include smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, spot tail shiners, American eel, and white perch. You can even find channel catfish in the Hudson, but you may have to borrow a “Southern Fried Catfish” recipe.

smallmouth vs largemouth bass

Largemouth bass can be found in the Mississippi River and the Hudson River.

©Ryno Botha/

What Is The Deepest River In The World?

The Congo River is the second-longest river in all of Africa. It is considered the deepest river in the world at 720 feet deep!

© Salmon

The deepest river in the world is the Congo River in west-central Africa, which measures up to about 720 feet deep. It runs in a counter-clockwise fashion through the Congo down to the Atlantic Ocean on the western coast of Africa.

In the Congo River but you will find cichlids, lungfish, bichirs, killifish, and elephant fish. If you decide to go fishing in the Congo River you should be aware that crocodiles and hippos also live there. There are no hippos or crocodiles in the Mississippi River (although there are alligators that live in the lower Mississippi River!).

close up of a crocodile

Crocodiles live in the Congo River, the deepest river in the World at 720 feet deep.

© Gutierrez Sanjuan

What Animals Live Around The Mississippi River?

There are actually over 200 different species of fish that call the Mississippi river home. Otters, coyotes, deer, beavers, muskrats, and many other mammals live along the long river banks. In fact, The National Park Service routinely does studies on the river to make sure that the animal populations are staying consistent and healthy.

The Mississippi River is in fact one of the largest rivers in the world and plays an important role in hosting many different animal species including a total of 50 different mammals and 45 species of amphibians.

Can Cargo Ships Fit Down The Mississippi?

Yes. Cargo ships and barges can fit down and up the Mississippi. The Port of New Orleans is a cargo handling and cruise port with $100 million in annual revenue. According to the National Park Service, “Sixty percent of all grain exported from the US is shipped on the Mississippi River through the Port of New Orleans and the Port of South Louisiana.” They also ship everything from coffee to clothes, and steel, metals, and wood.

Other ports along the Mississippi can be found in Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee, and multiple ports in Louisiana. There is an extensive lock and dam system that includes 29 locks and dams all along the river. Expert anglers will recommend the areas created around dams as the best place to catch carp, bluegill, and paddlefish.

Can You Canoe All The Way Down The Mississippi River?

Yes, you can navigate the locks and dams and canoe the length of the Mississippi. Some travel experts recommend planning 2-4 months to make the whole trip. If you are in a hurry you could take advice from the team of canoers that hold the Guinness World Record for “The fastest time to row the length of the Mississippi River by a team”.

In April of 2021, the team that calls themselves MMZero (Mile Marker Zero) left Lake Itasca in Minnesota and made it all the way to the Gulf of Mexico in 17 days, 19 hours, and 46 minutes. The four-person canoe team includes a father and his daughter, KJ, and Casey Millhone as well as Rod Price and Bobby Johnson. Maybe something else to add to your bucket list!

Canoes, kayaks and boats on a rack outdoors

There’s nothing like enjoying a nice day floating in a river on a canoe.

©Merrimon Crawford/

Summary: Depth Of Mississippi River

Average Depth 9-12 ft
Deepest point 200 ft

The Best Time To Visit The Mississippi River

There are many times of year that are best to visit the Mississippi River but two in particular that stand out as the best – spring, in the months of March, April, and May, or autumn, during the months of September, October, and November.

During these two seasons, you may be able to avoid the extreme temperatures of the summer and winter seasons. People often spend many days exploring the river on cruises from which there are many to choose. From luxury yachts and handmade rafts to canoes and steamboats, there is something for everyone to explore.

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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