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The Mississippi River, located in North America, begins in Lake Itasca, Minnesota and flows south, ending at the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana.

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Introduction

The River itself The Mississippi River, located in North America, begins in Lake Itasca, Minnesota and flows south, ending at the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana. Its watershed boundary is marked by the Rocky Mountains in the West, Appalachian Mountains in the East, and lakes in the north-east. Length: One of the longest rivers in the world; disputed to be between 2,320 - 2,550 miles long Width: Ranges from 20-30 feet at Lake Itasca to over four miles at Lake Onalaska Depth: Less than 3 feet deep at the source, but more than 200 feet deep at one point in New Orleans Elevation: Drains between 1.2 - 1.8 million square miles (41% of North America) - a total of 31 states and 2 Canadian provinces Watershed Area: Over 1,475 feet above sea level at Lake Itasca, dropping to 0 feet at its mouth Tributaries: Main ones are the R. Missouri (dry mid-west) to R. Ohio (wet highlands) Frequency of floods along the Mississippi > Minor Flooding (minimal, or no property damage; possibly with some public inconvenience) The Mississippi River, in its natural state would normally surpass its bankfull discharge and spill onto its floodplain annually. This would usually take place in the late spring with snowmelt increasing the volume in the river and heavy rainfall in the Appalachian Mountains. ...read more.

Middle

silt) have no where to be deposited; may get caught in debris in the bed, thus raising the level of the bed further. 4. Deforestation to create space for urban growth reduces transpiration. 5. Farmland (with plants growing in even rows) is less likely to hold water than rough growth (roots growing in random directions in different types of rock and soil), thus throughflow to river increases. 6. Asphalt on roads of urban development means that runoff reaches rivers more quickly. How each cause increases the chances of flooding > Physical Causes 1. As you can see from the picture above, the Mississippi River and all its tributaries spread over a large portion of America. Its drainage basin seems to cover about half of the country. This means that wherever rain falls over the USA, much of it will eventually reach the Mississippi river. This increases the chances of flooding because if more water is reaching the river, the river level is more likely to raise and overflow its embankments. 2. Reason #2 is similar to #1 in that with more water, the chances of flooding are increased. In this case, the main point is the tributaries and not the drainage basin. How large the tributaries are and where they come from is also of importance. ...read more.

Conclusion

Summary Paragraph The Mississippi was thought to have been tamed as there had been no serious flooding events in decades. Much time, research and investments have gone into making the area around the river safe for development. The people living on the floodplains were confident that they were safe ('levee effect'). The ironic combination of physical and human factors led to the completely unexpected flooding disaster in American history. There were huge amounts of money lost and much property was damaged and in need of repair, adding to the costs of the flood. Some may argue that it was mostly humans to blame for the flood. The flood may have been unavoidable, but ultimately, humans made a flood much worse than it could have been. Others argue that the benefits of taming the Mississippi River outweigh the losses. Floodplains are flat and easy to build upon, farms have fertile soils to grow crop, people have a stable supply of water and boats are now able to navigate the river. Their defense is that the levees performed to the extent to which they were designed for (not an extreme flood like the 1993). Either way, the Mississippi continues to be a river that refuses to be tamed. "You cannot tame that lawless stream" - Mark Twain, 1883. 20 November 2002 Nicole Lai 12.4 The Physical and Human Causes of Flooding A Case Study of the 1993 Mississippi Floods - pg 1 / 7 - ...read more.

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