Introduction: The Mississippi (02:01)
The Mississippi River lies at the heart of the American story. From its beginnings in the frozen north, it stretches across 31 states to the Deep South.
Mississippi Upper Headwaters (04:43)
The Missouri is the river's longest tributary and begins in the Rocky Mountains. During winter months, otters are forced to search for holes in the ice to fish. Ice climber Aaron Mulkey enjoys scaling frozen waterfalls.
Madison River (03:00)
Hydrothermal activity at Yellowstone National Park keeps the river flowing through ice and snow. Winter is especially hard for the coyotes; some have learned how to fish.
Ice Fishing Contest (03:13)
More than 11,000 competitors from across the country arrive at Gull Lake to participate in the charity contest. Each January, teams drill over 20,000 holes through two feet of ice.
Spring Thaw (05:14)
Temperatures slowly rise as the season changes. In the Appalachian Mountains, chub build stony nests to protect their eggs and freshwater mussels trick fish into carrying their larvae.
Impact on Wildlife (07:14)
The spring melt is not so welcome for Mississippi Basin beavers; they cannot ignore the sound of running water. Dams help American white cranes that flock to Marsh Lake in western Minnesota each year.
Agriculture and Mayflies (03:07)
Approximately 92% of U.S. agricultural exports are produced within the Mississippi River Basin. Wisconsin farmers produce half of the world’s cranberries. The central stretch of the Mississippi helps feed the entire nation and is a fertile home for swarming mayflies.
Artery for Commerce (05:15)
The stretch of the Mississippi River between Minneapolis and St. Louis is the steepest. A series of locks and dams keep the waters deep enough for ships to pass, allowing fleets to move millions of tons of produce up and down the country.
Lower Mississippi (03:54)
In the last thousand miles of its journey, the Mississippi River widens and slows as it flows through a vast floodplain. River guide John Ruskey provides a tour of the Atchafalaya Basin, the largest swamp in America.
Marsh Predators (03:39)
In early autumn, the calls of baby alligators echo throughout the swamp. A mother alligator protects her babies from preying birds. Swamp crawfish are territorial and defend their area from trespassers.
Civil Engineering (03:32)
Over the last 150 years, much of the lower Mississippi River’s flood plain has been cleared and drained. Urban planners build levees to hold back flood waters and bridges to cross the plains.
Shrinking Coastal Wetlands (09:02)
A marshy delta covers over 7 million acres and provides a rich fishing ground. The once endangered reddish egret is making a comeback. Conservationist Ben Depp documents damage to the ecosystem.
Credits: The Mississippi (00:31)
Credits: The Mississippi
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