Headwaters of the Mississippi River

Mississippi River at the headwaters — not impressed?

We think of the Mississippi as a mighty force, which it is, but I want to talk about the headwaters near Lake Itasca in Minnesota. It’s pretty ordinary looking, eh? Little more than a stream. Here’s a video I took from there.

There, the average flow rate is 6 cubic feet per second. By the time it reaches New Orleans, the average flow rate is 600,000 cubic feet per second.

At Lake Itasca, it would take 10 minutes for one semi-trailer of water to flow out of the lake into the Mississippi. At New Orleans, the equivalent of 166 semi-trailers of water flow past Algiers Point each second.At the headwaters, the average surface speed of the water is near 1.2 miles per hour – roughly one-third as fast as people walk. At New Orleans, it flows 3 miles per hour on average.In other words, over the roughly 2350 miles of the Mississippi’s life, it grows in power, width, biodiversity and overall usefulness.

Next time someone tells you something little can’t become something big, remember the Mississippi River. Next time someone tells you you’re not skilled enough or impressive enough or any other “enough,” remember the Mississippi.